The zygote and proembryo of alfalfa: quantitative, three-dimensional analysis and implications for biparental plastid inheritance

M. Losoff Rusche, H. L. Mogensen, T. Zhu, S. E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Genetic studies have demonstrated biparental inheritance of plastids in alfalfa. The ratio of paternal to maternal plastids in the progeny varies according to the genotypes of the parents, which can be classified as strong or weak transmitters of plastids. Previous cytological investigations of generative cells and male gametes have provided no consistent explanation for plastid inheritance patterns among genotypes. However, plastids in the mature egg cells of a strong female genotype (6-4) were found to be more numerous and larger than in mature eggs of a weak female genotype (CUF-B), and the plastids in 6-4 eggs are positioned equally around the nucleus. In CUF-B, the majority of plastids are positioned below (toward the micropyle) the mid level of the nucleus, which is the future division plane of the zygote. Since only the apical portion of the zygote produces the embryo proper, plastids in the basal portion were predicted to become included in the suspensor cells and not be inherited. In the present study, we examined zygotes and a two-celled proembryo from a cross between CUF-B and a strong male genotype (301), a cross that results in over 90% of the progeny possessing paternal plastids only. Our results indicate that the distribution of plastids observed in the CUF-B egg cell is maintained through the first division of the zygote. Further, paternal plastids are similarly distributed; however, within the apical portion of the zygote and in the apical cell of the two-celled proembryo, the number of paternal plastids is typically much greater than the number of maternal plastids. These findings suggest that maternal and paternal plastid distribution within the zygote is a significant factor determining the inheritance of maternal and paternal plastids in alfalfa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-100
Number of pages13
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1995


  • 3-D reconstruction
  • Embryo
  • Medicago sativa
  • Plastid distribution
  • Plastid inheritance
  • Zygote

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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