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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Suppression of Metacaspase- and Autophagy-Dependent Cell Death Improves Stress-Induced Microspore Embryogenesis in Brassica napus

Berenguer, Eduardo; Minina, Elena A.; Carneros, Elena; Bárány, Ivett; Bozhkov, Peter; Testillano, Pilar S.


Microspore embryogenesis is a biotechnological process that allows us to rapidly obtain doubled-haploid plants for breeding programs. The process is initiated by the application of stress treatment, which reprograms microspores to embark on embryonic development. Typically, a part of the microspores undergoes cell death that reduces the efficiency of the process. Metacaspases (MCAs), a phylogenetically broad group of cysteine proteases, and autophagy, the major catabolic process in eukaryotes, are critical regulators of the balance between cell death and survival in various organisms. In this study, we analyzed the role of MCAs and autophagy in cell death during stress-induced microspore embryogenesis in Brassica napus. We demonstrate that this cell death is accompanied by the transcriptional upregulation of three BnMCA genes (BnMCA-Ia, BnMCA-IIa and BnMCA-IIi), an increase in MCA proteolytic activity and the activation of autophagy. Accordingly, inhibition of autophagy and MCA activity, either individually or in combination, suppressed cell death and increased the number of proembryos, indicating that both components play a pro-cell death role and account for decreased efficiency of early embryonic development. Therefore, MCAs and/or autophagy can be used as new biotechnological targets to improve in vitro embryogenesis in Brassica species and doubled-haploid plant production in crop breeding and propagation programs.


autophagy; metacaspase; microspore embryogenesis; programmed cell death; rapeseed; stress

Published in

Plant and Cell Physiology
2020, Volume: 61, number: 12, pages: 2097-2110