Apomixis, the asexual reproduction via seeds, is associated to polyploidy and hybridization. To identify possible signatures of apomixis, and possible candidate genes underlying the shift from sex to apomixis, microarray-based gene expression patterns of live microdissected ovules at four different developmental stages were compared between apomictic and sexual individuals of the Ranunculus auricomus
complex. Following predictions from previous work on mechanisms underlying apomixis penetrance and expressivity in the genus, gene expression patterns were classified into three categories based on their relative expression in apomicts compared to their sexual parental ancestors. We found evidence of misregulation and differential gene expression between apomicts and sexuals, with the highest number of differences detected during meiosis progression and emergence of aposporous initial (AI) cells, a key developmental stage in the ovule of apomicts where a decision between divergent reproductive pathways takes place. While most of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) could not be annotated, gene expression was classified into transgressive, parent of origin and ploidy effects. Genes related to gametogenesis and meiosis demonstrated patterns reflective of transgressive and genome dosage effects, which support the hypothesis of a dominant factor controlling apomixis in Ranunculus
and modulated by secondary modifiers. Three genes with probable functions in sporogenesis and gametogenesis development are identified and characterized for future studies.
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