The molecular mechanisms underlying the initiation and maintenance of the embryonic pathway in plants are largely unknown. To obtain more insight into these processes, we used subtractive hybridization to identify genes that are upregulated during the in vitro induction of embryo development from immature pollen grains of Brassica napus (microspore embryogenesis). One of the genes identified, BABY BOOM ( BBM ), shows similarity to the AP2/ERF family of transcription factors and is expressed preferentially in developing embryos and seeds. Ectopic expression of BBM in Arabidopsis and Brassica led to the spontaneous formation of somatic embryos and cotyledon-like structures on seedlings. Ectopic BBM expression induced additional pleiotropic phenotypes, including neoplastic growth, hormone-free regeneration of explants, and alterations in leaf and flower morphology. The expression pattern of BBM in developing seeds combined with the BBM overexpression phenotype suggests a role for this gene in promoting cell proliferation and morphogenesis during embryogenesis.
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