Quantitative cytology of the alfalfa generative cell and its relation to male plastid inheritance patterns in three genotypes

T. Zhu, H. L. Mogensen, S. E. Smith

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15 Scopus citations


Studies utilizing restriction analysis of plastid DNA, as well as those employing chlorophyll-deficient mutants, have shown a high frequency of paternal plastid transmission in alfalfa. Recent research has also shown that plastid inheritance patterns among alfalfa genotypes and are under genetic control. In a previous study we were unable to detect any correlations between qualitative, three-dimensional ultrastructure of generative cells and male plastid transmission strength in certain genotypes. In the present study we used serial ultrathin sectioning, computerized reconstruction and quantitation, and stereology to further analyze generative cells within mature pollen. Measurements included volumes and surface areas of cells, nuclei, and organelles, as well as organelle number and distribution. Three genotypes were investigated, one that is a strong transmitter of male plastids (genotype 301), one that is a weaker transmitter of male plastids (genotype 7W), and a third that is an even weaker male plastid transmitter (genotype MS-5). Our results show that genotype MS-5 has significantly fewer plastids/generative cell than either of the other genotypes, which may account for it being a relatively poor transmitter of male plastids. However, plastid number does not explain known differences in male plastid inheritance between genotypes 301 and 7W, since plastid number does not differ significantly between these two genotypes. Regarding the other features of generative cells measured in this study, no consistent correlations were found that might account for differences in male plastid inheritance patterns between genotypes. Plastid distribution is equal in each end of the spindle-shaped generative cell in all genotypes studied. Similar relative results were found with regard to mitochondria within generative cells; however, comparative genetic data are not available on mitochondrial transmission patterns in alfalfa genotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-26
Number of pages6
JournalTheoretical and Applied Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991


  • Biparental cytoplasmic inheritance
  • Medicago sativa
  • Plastid transmission
  • Three-dimensional reconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Genetics


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