Flowering plants have evolved to be a predominant life form on earth. A common principle of flowering plants and probably one of the main reasons for their evolutionary success is the rapid development of an embryo next to a supporting tissue called the endosperm. The embryo and the endosperm are protected by surrounding maternal tissues, the integuments, and the trinity of integuments, embryo and endosperm comprise the plant seed. For proper seed development, these three structures have to develop in a highly controlled and co-ordinated manner, representing a paradigm for cell–cell communication during development. Communication pathways between the endosperm and the seed coat are now beginning to be unravelled. Moreover, recently isolated mutants affecting plant reproduction have allowed a genetic dissection of seed development, and revealed that the embryo plays a previously unrecognized yet important role in co-ordinating seed development.

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