The ABI3 gene product of Arabidopsis is essential for correct completion of seed maturation. A severe mutant allele at this locus results in seed that remain green, fail to establish desiccation tolerance, and that germinate at a developmental stage when wild-type seed will not. Moreover, the formation of leaf primordia and xylem differentiation, both characteristic of germinating wild-type seedlings, can be observed in embryos harvested 12 days after flowering. Thus, mature abi3 embryos reach a developmental state that more closely resembles the character of a developing seedling rather than that of a dormant embryo. Previous studies of this gene have resulted in the suggestion that ABI3 is a transducer of abscisic acid induced seed dormancy. Our results demonstrate that the ABI3 gene product can be most accurately described as one of the major regulators of the transition between embryo maturation and early seedling development, rather than simply a transducer of the abscisic acid signal.

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