Completing the cycle: maternal effects as the missing link in plant life histories.
Maternal effects on seed traits such as germination are important components of the life histories of plants because they represent the pathway from adult to offspring: the pathway that completes the life cycle. Maternal environmental effects on germination influence basic life-history expression, natural selection on germination, the expression of genetic variation for germination and even the genes involved in germination. Maternal effects on seed traits can even influence generation time and projected population growth rates. Whether these maternal environmental effects are imposed by the maternal genotype, the endosperm genotype or the embryonic genotype, however, is as yet unknown. Patterns of gene expression and protein synthesis in seeds indicate that the maternal genotype has the opportunity to influence its progeny's germination behaviour. Investigation of the phenotypic consequences of maternal environmental effects, regardless of its genetic determination, is relevant for understanding the variation in plant life cycles. Distinguishing the genotype(s) that control them is relevant for predicting the evolutionary trajectories and patterns of selection on progeny phenotypes and the genes underlying them.
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