Variation in generative cell plastid nucleoids and male fertility in Medicago sativa

R. N. Keys, S. E. Smith, H. L. Mogensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Biparental inheritance of plastids has been documented in numerous angiosperm species. The adaptive significance of the mode of plastid inheritance (unior biparental) is poorly understood. In plants exhibiting paternal inheritance of plastids, DNA-containing plastids in the microgametophyte may affect survival or growth of the gametophyte or the embryo. In this study the number of plastids containing DNA (nucleoids) in generative cells and generative cell and pollen volumes were evaluated in a range of genotypes of Medicago sativa (alfalfa). M. sativa exhibits biparental inheritance of plastids with strong paternal bias. The M. sativa genotypes used were crossed as male parents to a common genotype and the relationships between the gametophytic traits measured and male reproductive success were assessed. Generative cell plastid number and pollen grain size exhibited opposing associations with male fertility. Path analysis showed that generative cell plastid number was negatively associated with male fertility. This study provides evidence that there may be a competitive advantage at fertilization afforded sperm that have minimized their organelle content. The apparent lack of strong selection for reduced plastid number in generative cells of M. sativa may be a reflection of the diminished importance of reproductive success due to its perenniality or its long use in cultivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-312
Number of pages5
JournalSexual Plant Reproduction
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1995


  • Alfalfa
  • Chloroplast
  • Organelle inheritance
  • Pollen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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