Seeds of flowering plants are not only important from an agricultural point of view but are also an excellent system to investigate unique cellular processes and complex communications among tissues during development. The seed comprises the embryo, endosperm, and seed coat, and these tissues communicate with each other to determine the final seed size. The duration of the early-stage endosperm development is strongly associated with the final seed size; however, it is still not clear what exactly is happening in the seed at this early stage. The Kawashima lab has identified that manipulation of cellular dynamics of the early-stage endosperm results in diverse final seed sizes. Using live-cell imaging, genetics, and biochemical approaches in Arabidopsis thaliana, this project aims to understand the relationship between the early-stage endosperm development and subsequent seed phenotypes, such as seed size. This project engages student in science by providing STEM students with lab research experiences and non-STEM students with opportunities to be exposed to plant biotechnology.

The Kawashima lab established the live-imaging endosperm system and identified that filamentous actin (F-actin) in the coenocytic endosperm of the flowering plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, plays a role in endosperm development, as well as, seed size. The objectives of this project are to: (i) investigate how F-actin is involved in coenocytic endosperm development, (ii) characterize the function of an endosperm-specific class II formin in F-actin organization, and (iii) investigate endosperm molecular and cellular dynamics of previously identified mutant/transgenic lines that show seed size change through endosperm development. Not only will the live-imaging system be utilized to address the objectives mentioned above, but also genetics, genomics, and biochemical approaches. This project will provide clues about how endosperm genotypes, cellular dynamics in the coenocyte, and the phenotypes (endosperm development itself as well as the final seed size) link together to form a seed. These insights will be a foundation to developing further knowledge of how the complex compartments of plants work together to orchestrate seed development and larger crop seeds for higher yield to sustain our world.

This project is co-funded by Integrative Organismal Systems, Molecular and Cellular Biolsciences and the Rules of Life.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Anne W. Sylvester
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University of Kentucky
United States
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