Endopolyploidy in Plants


Endopolyploidy is a general term describing the multiplication of nuclear DNA within the cell. In plants, this takes place via several mechanisms but mainly through the process of endoreduplication. Endoreduplication involves the replication of chromosomal deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) without intervening mitoses and no obvious chromatin condensation/decondensation, with chromatids staying united either at the centromere or rarely, along their entire length. The occurrence of this form of endopolyploidy is uneven across plants; thus far, it has not been detected in some lineages (e.g. liverworts), whereas it is common in angiosperms (flowering plants), where very high levels (up to 24 567C) of endopolyploidy have been reported in some tissues. Internal and external factors contribute to the mechanisms underlying endopolyploidy, which can be seen as a key part of the developmental flexibility of plants. Recent work has shown that endopolyploidy may also play an important role in the response of plants to environmental stress.

Key Concepts

  • The frequency of endopolyploidy varies across different lineages of land plants.
  • Three types of endopolyploidy have been reported in plants – endocycles, endomitosis and progressive partial endoreduplication, of which the endocycle is the most common.
  • Endopolyploidy can reach very high levels in some plant cells (up to 24 567C).
  • Endopolyploidy can lead to an increase in cell size, especially when the number of endocycles is high.
  • The switch from the mitotic cell cycle to the endocycle involves changes in the regulation and abundance of a variety of cyclin‐dependent kinases (CDKs), cyclins (CYC) and regulatory proteins/transcription factors.
  • Endopolyploidy is common in reproductive tissues of plants, for example the nutritive tissue of the endosperm in seeds.
  • The onset of endopolyploidy is induced in some cell tissues in response to stress.

Keywords: endopolyploidy; endoreduplication; endocycle; endomitosis; ploidy; cell size; cell differentiation; cell cycle; stress; DNA damage response

Figure 1. Endopolyploidy in plants. The canonical mitotic cell cycle is shown on the left, which includes different phases: synthesis (S phase) where DNA is replicated and mitosis (M phase) where chromosomes segregate and cells divide to produce two daughter cells, with each precededd by a gap phase (G1 or G2) preceding each. In the endocycle, mitosis (M phase) is absent, resulting in one G phase and S phase and a doubling of DNA (4C) per endocycle but not chromosome number (2n). In endomitosis, cells enter mitosis and chromosomes segregate but exit before cell division (i.e. partial M phase), resulting in a doubling of chromosome number as well as DNA (4C, 4n). Finally, in partial endocycles (also known as partial progressive endoreduplication – PPE), cells skip M phase, but during S phase, they only replicate specific parts of the chromosomal DNA, resulting in cells with partial increases in DNA content (2C + P where P is the part of the 2C genome that has been replicated). Figure based on Breuer et al. 2014 © Elsevier.
Figure 2. Cell size is closely correlated with ploidy in the leaf epidermis of Arabidopsis thaliana. Nuclei are stained with 4′6‐diamidino‐2‐phenylindole (DAPI). Scale Bar, 100 µm in a large panel and 10 µm in the insets.
Figure 3. Endopolyploidy in Feulgen‐stained antipodal cell nuclei of grasses. (a) Nuclei of hexaploid Triticum aestivum (2n = 6x = 42) comparing the large endopolyploid antipodal cell nucleus containing a 256C DNA content with two somatic nuclei with 4C DNA contents. (b) Four 256‐stranded chromosomes (arrowed) from an antipodal cell of Secale cereale compared with ovular nuclei with 2C or 4C DNA contents. Scale bar = 10 µm. Reproduced with permission from Bennett 2004 © John Wiley and Sons.
Figure 4. Distribution of endopolyploidy across land plants superimposed on a summary phylogenetic tree showing broadscale relationships between land plant groups (according to a current consensus of molecular phylogenetic results). Presence (+), absence (−), rare occurrence (∼) or lack of available data (?) are indicated for the major lineages of vascular and nonvascular land plants. ANA grade, Amborella, Nymphaeales and Austrobaileyales.
Figure 5. Molecular mechanisms underpinning the endocycle in plants, showing the interaction of cyclin‐dependent kinases (CDKs) and cyclins (CYCs) in the cell cycle (a) and endocycle (b). CDKA and CDKB determine the transition from one phase of the cell cycle to the next, with CDKA present constantly and CDKB thought to be specific for the G2/M transition. The anaphase‐promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) participates in the degradation of CYCs, therefore preventing cells from entering mitosis prematurely. The switch to the endocycle is governed by a decrease in CYC‐CDKB1 activity and inactivation of CYCA2;3. Only CYCA and CYCD have been shown to be active during the endocycle, where constant activity of APC/C ensures that cells do not enter mitosis.


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Further Reading

Breuer C, Braidwood L and Sugimoto K (2014) Endocycling in the path of plant development. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 17: 78–85.

Okello RCO, de Visser PHB, Heuvelink E, Marcelis LFM and Struik PC (2016) Light mediated regulation of cell division, endoreduplication and cell expansion. Environmental and Experimental Botany 121: 39–47.

Orr‐Weaver TL (2015) When bigger is better: the role of polyploidy in organogenesis. Trends in Genetics 31: 307–315.

Yokoyama R, Hirakawa T, Hayashi S, Sakamoto T and Matsunaga S (2016) Dynamics of plant DNA replication based on PCNA visualization. Scientific Reports 6: Article number: 29657.

Yoshiyama KO (2015) SOG1: a master regulator of the DNA damage response in plants. Genes & Genetic Systems 90: 209–216.

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Leitch, Ilia J, and Dodsworth, Steven(Apr 2017) Endopolyploidy in Plants. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020097.pub2]