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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  2. Abstract Anthers express the most genes of any plant organ, and their development involves sequential redifferentiation of many cell types to perform distinctive roles from inception through pollen dispersal. Agricultural yield and plant breeding depend on understanding and consequently manipulating anthers, a compelling motivation for basic plant biology research to contribute. After stamen initiation, two theca form at the tip, and each forms an adaxial and abaxial lobe composed of pluripotent Layer 1-derived and Layer 2-derived cells. After signal perception or self-organization, germinal cells are specified from Layer 2-derived cells, and these secrete a protein ligand that triggers somatic differentiation of their neighbors. Historically, recovery of male-sterile mutants has been the starting point for studying anther biology. Many genes and some genetic pathways have well-defined functions in orchestrating subsequent cell fate and differentiation events. Today, new tools are providing more detailed information; for example, the developmental trajectory of germinal cells illustrates the power of single cell RNA-seq to dissect the complex journey of one cell type. We highlight ambiguities and gaps in available data to encourage attention on important unresolved issues.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 22, 2023
  3. Maize pollen haploid gene expression activates 11 days after meiosis.
  4. Abstract The spatiotemporal development of somatic tissues of the anther lobe is necessary for successful fertile pollen production. This process is mediated by many transcription factors acting through complex, multi-layered networks. Here, our analysis of functional knockout mutants of interacting basic helix–loop–helix genes Ms23, Ms32, basic helix–loop–helix 122 (bHLH122), and bHLH51 in maize (Zea mays) established that male fertility requires all four genes, expressed sequentially in the tapetum (TP). Not only do they regulate each other, but also they encode proteins that form heterodimers that act collaboratively to guide many cellular processes at specific developmental stages. MS23 is confirmed to be the master factor, as the ms23 mutant showed the earliest developmental defect, cytologically visible in the TP, with the most drastic alterations in premeiotic gene expression observed in ms23 anthers. Notably, the male-sterile ms23, ms32, and bhlh122-1 mutants lack 24-nt phased secondary small interfering RNAs (phasiRNAs) and the precursor transcripts from the corresponding 24-PHAS loci, while the bhlh51-1 mutant has wild-type levels of both precursors and small RNA products. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that 24-nt phasiRNA biogenesis primarily occurs downstream of MS23 and MS32, both of which directly activate Dcl5 and are required for most 24-PHAS transcription, withmore »bHLH122 playing a distinct role in 24-PHAS transcription.« less
  5. Ustilago maydis is a smut fungus that infects all aerial maize organs, namely, seedling leaves, tassels, and ears. In all organs, tumors are formed by inducing hypertrophy and hyperplasia in actively dividing cells; however, the vast differences in cell types and developmental stages for different parts of the plant requires that U. maydis have both general and organ-specific strategies for infecting maize. In this review, we summarize how the maize–U. maydis interaction can be studied using mutant U. maydis strains to better understand how individual effectors contribute to this interaction, either through general or specific expression in a cell type, tissue, or organ. We also examine how male sterile maize mutants that do not support tumor formation can be used to explore key features of the maize anthers that are required for successful infection. Finally, we discuss key unanswered questions about the maize–U. maydis interaction and how new technologies can potentially be used to answer them.
  6. Abstract

    Small RNAs play important roles during plant development by regulating transcript levels of target mRNAs, maintaining genome integrity, and reinforcing DNA methylation.Dicer-like 5(Dcl5) is proposed to be responsible for precise slicing in many monocots to generate diverse 24-nt phased, secondary small interfering RNAs (phasiRNAs), which are exceptionally abundant in meiotic anthers of diverse flowering plants. The importance and functions of these phasiRNAs remain unclear. Here, we characterized several mutants ofdcl5, including alleles generated by the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)–Cas9system and a transposon-disrupted allele. We report thatdcl5mutants have few or no 24-nt phasiRNAs, develop short anthers with defective tapetal cells, and exhibit temperature-sensitive male fertility. We propose that DCL5 and 24-nt phasiRNAs are critical for fertility under growth regimes for optimal yield.

  7. 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.