Research Article

Defining the developmental program leading to meiosis in maize

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Science  05 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6435, pp. 52-56
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav6428

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  • RE: Stop obscuring plant sexuality

    In their recent study “Defining the developmental program leading to meiosis in maize” (5 April, pgs. 52-56) Nelms et al. state that they are examining “...maize male meiosis”(1; pg. 52). Elsewhere they refer to this meiosis as being done by male structures. There is a major conceptual confusion here, as the organism which is doing this meiosis is not male at all.
    If we define a “male” as an organism which makes sperm, then the plant which these authors have examined is clearly not male, as it never makes sperm; instead its meiosis makes spores. Obviously, the real male plant is the pollen grain (i.e. microgametophyte) which does make sperm through mitosis (2). Thus the reference to “male” in association with meiosis done by a sporophytic plant makes it unclear to which stage in the life cycle the authors mean to refer.
    What, apparently, has happened here is that the definition of “male” has been so stretched that an organism which never makes sperm is included under this term. Certainly the definition of terms can be altered, when good reasons demand it, but for the sake of clarity it would be appropriate for this redefinition of “male” to be explicitly stated? However, in this case there is no need for such a redefinition, as the sexual organism which is doing meiosis can be simply identified as being a staminate plant. That would indicate to any plant scientist that what is being considered here is an anther sac, of this flowering plant, where c...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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