A PARTHENOGENESIS allele from apomictic dandelion can induce egg cell division without fertilization in lettuce

Charles J. Underwood, Kitty Vijverberg, Diana Rigola, Shunsuke Okamoto, Carla Oplaat, Rik H.M. Op Den Camp, Tatyana Radoeva, Stephen E. Schauer, Joke Fierens, Kim Jansen, Sandra Mansveld, Marco Busscher, Wei Xiong, Erwin Datema, Koen Nijbroek, Evert-Jan Blom, Ross Bicknell, Andrew Catanach, Sylvia Erasmuson, Christopher WinefieldArjen J. Van Tunen, Marcel Prins, Eric Schranz*, Peter J. Van Dijk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Apomixis, the clonal formation of seeds, is a rare yet widely distributed trait in flowering plants. We have isolated the PARTHENOGENESIS (PAR) gene from apomictic dandelion that triggers embryo development in unfertilized egg cells. PAR encodes a K2-2 zinc finger, EAR-domain protein. Unlike the recessive sexual alleles, the dominant PAR allele is expressed in egg cells and has a miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) transposon insertion in the promoter. The MITE-containing promoter can invoke a homologous gene from sexual lettuce to complement dandelion LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS mutants. A similar MITE is also present in the promoter of the PAR gene in apomictic forms of hawkweed, suggesting a case of parallel evolution. Heterologous expression of dandelion PAR in lettuce egg cells induced haploid embryo-like structures in the absence of fertilization. Sexual PAR alleles are expressed in pollen, suggesting that the gene product releases a block on embryogenesis after fertilization in sexual species while in apomictic species PAR expression triggers embryogenesis in the absence of fertilization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-93
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • PRJEB40645
  • ERP124302


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    Underwood, C. J. (Creator), Vijverberg, K. (Creator), Rigola, D. (Creator), Okamoto, S. (Creator), Oplaat, C. (Creator), Op Den Camp, R. H. M. (Creator), Radoeva, T. (Creator), Schauer, S. E. (Creator), Fierens, J. (Creator), Jansen, K. (Creator), Mansveld, S. (Creator), Busscher, M. (Creator), Xiong, W. (Creator), Datema, E. (Creator), Nijbroek, K. (Creator), Blom, E. (Creator), Bicknell, R. (Creator), Catanach, A. (Creator), Erasmuson, S. (Creator), Winefield, C. (Creator), Van Tunen, A. J. (Creator), Prins, M. (Creator), Schranz, E. (Creator) & Van Dijk, P. J. (Creator), Wageningen University & Research, 3 Dec 2020


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