An uncoupling screen for autonomous embryo mutants in Arabidopsis thaliana
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Simple de novo screens in Arabidopsis thaliana have previously identified mutants that affect endosperm development but viable-embryo mutants have not been identified. Our strategy to identify autonomous embryo development was to uncouple embryo and endosperm fertilisation. This involved a male-sterile mutant population being crossed with a distinct pollen parent—the pollen was needed to initiate endosperm development and because it was distinct, the maternal progeny could be selected from the hybrid population. This process was refined over three stages, resulting in a viable approach to screen for autonomous embryo mutants. From 8,000 screened plants, a mutation was isolated in which the integument cells extended from the ovule and proliferated into a second complete twinned ovule. Some embryos from the mutant were normal but others developed fused cotyledons. In addition, a proportion of the progeny lacked paternal genes.