How 'Mother of Thousands' Makes Plantlets

Oct 01, 2007

New research shows how the houseplant "mother of thousands" (Kalanchoe diagremontiana) makes the tiny plantlets that drop from the edges of its leaves. Having lost the ability to make viable seeds, the plant has shifted some of the processes that make seeds to the leaves, said Neelima Sinha, professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

Many plants reproduce by throwing out long shoots or runners that can grow into new plants. But mother of thousands goes further: the plantlets are complete miniature plants that become disconnected from the mother plant's circulatory system and drop off, allowing them to spread rapidly and effectively. The houseplant has lost the ability to make viable seeds and only reproduces through plantlets.

Helena Garcês, a graduate student in Sinha's laboratory, Sinha and colleagues looked at two genes, STM and LEC, in mother of thousands and close relatives, some of which make seeds instead of plantlets. STM controls shoot growth, while LEC is involved in making seeds.

Expression of STM in leaves was essential for making plantlets. In most plants LEC is expressed in seeds, but mother of thousands' version of the gene, LEC1, was expressed in leaves as well. When the researchers transferred the LEC1 variant into other plants, they were unable to make viable seeds.

Mother of thousands appears to have lost the ability to reproduce sexually and make seeds, but transferred at least part of the embryo-making process to the leaves to make plantlets, Sinha said. The findings could be useful in manipulating plant reproduction, she said.

The other authors on the paper are: Connie Champagne and Soomin Park, postdoctoral researchers at UC Davis; graduate student Brad Townsley; Rui Malhó, University of Lisbon, Portugal; Maria Pedroso, Monsanto Co., St. Louis; and John Harada, professor of plant biology at UC Davis. The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Portugal, and is published online by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: UC Davis

Explore further: 221 new species described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2014

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How mutualisms evolve in a world of selfish genes

Nov 11, 2014

Reproduction for a female fig wasp can be a nightmarish process. When she is ready to lay her eggs, she leaves the fig in which she was born and became pregnant and searches for another. After she finds it, ...

Tech startups create virtual farmers markets (Update)

Dec 22, 2013

Sara Pasquinelli doesn't shop at the grocery store much anymore. The busy mother of two young boys buys nearly all her food from a new online service that delivers to her front door—but it doesn't bring ...

Promiscuous mouse moms bear sexier sons

Nov 18, 2013

University of Utah biologists found that when mother mice compete socially for mates in a promiscuous environment, their sons play hard and die young: They attract more females by making more urinary pheromones, ...

Recommended for you

Ninety-eight new beetle species discovered in Indonesia

5 hours ago

Ninety-eight new species of the beetle genus Trigonopterus have been described from Java, Bali and other Indonesian islands. Museum scientists from Germany and their local counterparts used an innovative approa ...

Bacteria are wishing you a Merry Xmas

5 hours ago

A bacterium has been used to wish people a Merry Xmas. Grown by Dr Munehiro Asally, an Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, the letters used to spell MERRY XMAS are made of Bacillus subtilis, ...

Pragmatic approach to saving what can be saved

5 hours ago

How can biodiversity be preserved in a world in which traditional ecosystems are increasingly being displaced by "man-made nature"? Biologists at the TU Darmstadt and ETH Zurich have developed a new concept ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.