The complex structures of multicellular organisms originate from a unicellular zygote. In most angiosperms, including Arabidopsis thaliana, the zygote is distinctly polar and divides asymmetrically to produce an apical cell, which generates the aboveground part of the plant body, and a basal cell, which generates the root tip and extraembryonic suspensor. Thus, zygote polarity is pivotal for establishing the apical-basal axis running from the shoot apex to the root tip of the plant body. The molecular mechanisms and spatiotemporal dynamics behind zygote polarization remain elusive. However, advances in live-cell imaging of plant zygotes have recently made significant insights possible. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and the accompanying poster, we summarize our understanding of the early steps in apical-basal axis formation in Arabidopsis, with a focus on de novo transcriptional activation after fertilization and the intracellular dynamics leading to the first asymmetric division of the zygote.

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