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Using giant scarlet runner bean embryos to uncover regulatory networks controlling suspensor gene activity


One of the major unsolved issues in plant development is understanding the regulatory networks that control the differential gene activity that is required for the specification and development of the two major embryonic regions, the embryo proper and suspensor. Historically, the giant embryo of scarlet runner bean (SRB), Phaseolus coccineus, has been used as a model system to investigate the physiological events that occur early in embryogenesis-focusing on the question of what role the suspensor region plays. A major feature distinguishing SRB embryos from those of other plants is a highly enlarged suspensor containing at least 200 cells that synthesize growth regulators required for subsequent embryonic development. Recent studies have exploited the giant size of the SRB embryo to micro-dissect the embryo proper and suspensor regions in order to use genomics-based approaches to identify regulatory genes that may be involved in controlling suspensor and embryo proper differentiation, as well as the cellular processes that may be unique to each embryonic region. Here we review the current genomics resources that make SRB embryos a compelling model system for studying the early events required to program embryo development.

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