This delicate, birdlike projection is an immature seed of the Arabidopsis plant. The part in blue shows the cell that gives rise to the endosperm, the tissue that nourishes the embryo. The cell is expressing only the maternal copy of a gene called MEDEA. This phenomenon, in which the activity of a gene can depend on the parent that contributed it, is called genetic imprinting. In Arabidopsis, the maternal copy of MEDEA makes a protein that keeps the paternal copy silent and reduces the size of the endosperm. In flowering plants and mammals, this sort of genetic imprinting is thought to be a way for the mother to protect herself by limiting the resources she gives to any one embryo. Courtesy of Robert Fischer, a plant and microbial biologist at University of California, Berkeley.Featured in the May 16, 2006, issue of Biomedical Beat.
High res. image (1.7 MB JPEG)