Ovules play a central role in plant reproduction, generating the female gametophyte within sporophytic integuments. When fertilized, the integuments differentiate into the seed coat and support the development of the embryo and endosperm. Mutations in the AINTEGUMENTA (ANT) locus of Arabidopsis have a profound effect on ovule development. Strong ant mutants have ovules that fail to form integuments or a female gametophyte. Flower development is also altered, with a random reduction of organs in the outer three whorls. In addition, organs present in the outer three floral whorls often have abnormal morphology. Ovules from a weak ant mutant contain both inner and outer integuments but generally fail to produce a functional female gametophyte. We isolated the ANT gene by using a mutation derived by T-DNA insertional mutagenesis. ANT is a member of a gene family that includes the floral homeotic gene APETALA2 (AP2). Like AP2, ANT contains two AP2 domains homologous with the DNA binding domain of ethylene response element binding proteins. ANT is expressed most highly in developing flowers but is also expressed in vegetative tissue. Taken together, these results suggest that ANT is a transcription factor that plays a critical role in regulating ovule and female gametophyte development.
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