Quantitative, three-dimensional analysis of alfalfa egg cells in two genotypes: Implications for biparental plastid inheritance

Tong Zhu, H. Lloyd Mogensen, Steven E Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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In alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), plastids are inherited biparentally. Patterns of plastid transmission vary according to the genotypes involved, but there is a strong bias in favor of male plastid transmission. Previous cytological studies on the male gametophyte of this species have not provided an adequate explanation for the differences in plastid transmission frequencies among genotypes. In the present study, we compared egg cells from genotypes classified as strong or weak plastid transmitters to determine whether plastid transmission strength is correlated with egg cell structure before fertilization. We found that plastids in the mature egg cells of the strong female (genotype 6-4) are significantly larger than in mature eggs of the weak female (genotype CUF-B), and that significantly more plastids are positioned in the apical portion of the mature egg cell of genotype 6-4 than in CUF-B. Immature eggs in the two genotypes show the same pattern as mature eggs with regard to plastid number and polarization. Since only the apical portion of the egg cell/zygote gives rise to the functional embryo, these results indicate that the potential input of female plastids, in terms of plastid size and number, may be an important factor in determining the inheritance patterns of these organelles in alfalfa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1993



  • Cytoplasmic inheritance
  • Female gametophyte (ultrastructural reconstruction)
  • Medicago (egg cell)
  • Plastid inheritance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science

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