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Defining the developmental program leading to meiosis in maize

Picture of corn stalks
Brad Nelms
Apr 16 2019

Posted In:

Research, Faculty

Exciting work from Professor Virginia Walbot's lab, just published in Science!

Following meiosis in maize
Plants do not set aside a germ-cell lineage from early development as animals do, but instead generate germ cells on demand. Nelms and Walbot, working in maize, took advantage of a size differential between somatic and developing germ cells in the anthers at the top of the maize plant to isolate individual germ cells during the meiotic progression to pollen development. They used single-cell RNA sequencing to study changes in the transcriptome through meiosis. These studies revealed increasing specialization as meiosis progressed, with a reorganization of the transcriptome in a transition during the leptotene stage of meiosis.

Abstract
In multicellular organisms, the entry into meiosis is a complex process characterized by increasing meiotic specialization. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we reconstructed the developmental program into maize male meiosis. A smooth continuum of expression stages before meiosis was followed by a two-step transcriptome reorganization in leptotene, during which 26.7% of transcripts changed in abundance by twofold or more. Analysis of cell-cycle gene expression indicated that nearly all pregerminal cells proliferate, eliminating a stem-cell model to generate meiotic cells. Mutants defective in somatic differentiation or meiotic commitment expressed transcripts normally present in early meiosis after a delay; thus, the germinal transcriptional program is cell autonomous and can proceed despite meiotic failure.