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Review article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Molecular basis and evolutionary drivers of endosperm-based hybridization barriers

Bente, Heinrich; Koehler, Claudia


The endosperm, a transient seed tissue, plays a pivotal role in supporting embryo growth and germination. This unique feature sets flowering plants apart from gymnosperms, marking an evolutionary innovation in the world of seed-bearing plants. Nevertheless, the importance of the endosperm extends beyond its role in providing nutrients to the developing embryo by acting as a versatile protector, preventing hybridization events between distinct species and between individuals with different ploidy. This phenomenon centers on growth and differentiation of the endosperm and the speed at which both processes unfold. Emerging studies underscore the important role played by type I MADS-box transcription factors, including the paternally expressed gene PHERES1. These factors, along with downstream signaling pathways involving auxin and abscisic acid, are instrumental in regulating endosperm development and, consequently, the establishment of hybridization barriers. Moreover, mutations in various epigenetic regulators mitigate these barriers, unveiling a complex interplay of pathways involved in their formation. In this review, we discuss the molecular underpinnings of endosperm-based hybridization barriers and their evolutionary drivers.Recent discoveries reveal the role and genetic basis of hybridization barriers established in the endosperm.

Published in

Plant Physiology
2024, Volume: 195, number: 1, pages: 155–169

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