The FG (female gametophyte) of flowering plants (angiosperms) is a simple highly polar structure composed of only a few cell types. The FG develops from a single cell through mitotic divisions to generate, depending on the species, four to 16 nuclei in a syncytium. These nuclei are then partitioned into three or four distinct cell types. The mechanisms underlying the specification of the nuclei in the FG has been a focus of research over the last decade. Nevertheless, we are far from understanding the patterning mechanisms that govern cell specification. Although some results were previously interpreted in terms of static positional information, several lines of evidence now show that local interactions are important. In the present article, we revisit the available data on developmental mutants and cell fate markers in the light of theoretical frameworks for biological patterning. We argue that a further dissection of the mechanisms may be impeded by the combinatorial and dynamical nature of developmental cues. However, accounting for these properties of developing systems is necessary to disentangle the diversity of the phenotypic manifestations of the underlying molecular interactions.

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