The plant-specific protein FEHLSTART controls male meiotic entry, initializing meiotic synchronization in Arabidopsis
Meiosis marks the transition from the sporophyte to the gametophyte generation in the life cycle of flowering plants, and creates genetic variations through homologous recombination. In most flowering plants, meiosis is highly synchronized within each anther, which is significant for efficient fertilization. To date, little is known about the molecular mechanisms of entry into meiosis and exit from it, and only a few genes in Arabidopsis have been characterized with a role in regulating meiotic progression.
In this study, we report the functional characterization of a plant-specific basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) protein, FEHLSTART (FST), a defect in which leads to premature meiotic entry and asynchronous meiosis, and results in decreased seed yield. Investigation of the time course of meiosis showed that the onset of leptotene, the first stage of prophase I, frequently occurred earlier in fst-1 than in the wild type. Asynchronous meiosis followed, which could manifest in the disruption of regular spindle structures and symmetric cell divisions in fst-1 mutants during the meiosis I/II transition. In accordance with frequently accelerated meiotic entry, whole-transcriptome analysis of fst-1 anthers undergoing meiosis revealed that 19 circadian rhythm genes were affected and 47 pollen-related genes were prematurely expressed at a higher level. Taken together, we propose that FST is required for normal meiotic entry and the establishment of meiotic synchrony.