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The female gametophyte: an emerging model for cell type-specific systems biology in plant development

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Schmid Marc W., Schmidt Anja, Grossniklaus Ueli,
Project The Genetic and Molecular Basis of Gametogenesis and Maternal Effects in Arabidopsis
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Frontiers in Plant Science
Volume (Issue) 6
Page(s) 907
Title of proceedings Frontiers in Plant Science
DOI 10.3389/fpls.2015.00907


Systems biology, a holistic approach describing a system emerging from the interactions of its molecular components, critically depends on accurate qualitative determination and quantitative measurements of these components. Development and improvement of large-scale profiling methods ("omics") now facilitates comprehensive measurements of many relevant molecules. For multicellular organisms, such as animals, fungi, algae, and plants, the complexity of the system is augmented by the presence of specialized cell types and organs, and a complex interplay within and between them. Cell type-specific analyses are therefore crucial for the understanding of developmental processes and environmental responses. This review first gives an overview of current methods used for large-scale profiling of specific cell types exemplified by recent advances in plant biology. The focus then lies on suitable model systems to study plant development and cell type specification. We introduce the female gametophyte of flowering plants as an ideal model to study fundamental developmental processes. Moreover, the female reproductive lineage is of importance for the emergence of evolutionary novelties such as an unequal parental contribution to the tissue nurturing the embryo or the clonal production of seeds by asexual reproduction (apomixis). Understanding these processes is not only interesting from a developmental or evolutionary perspective, but bears great potential for further crop improvement and the simplification of breeding efforts. We finally highlight novel methods, which are already available or which will likely soon facilitate large-scale profiling of the specific cell types of the female gametophyte in both model and non-model species. We conclude that it may take only few years until an evolutionary systems biology approach toward female gametogenesis may decipher some of its biologically most interesting and economically most valuable processes.