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Plant Sex Determination.
Sex determination is as important for the fitness of plants as it is for animals, but its mechanisms appear to vary much more among plants than among animals, and the expression of gender in plants differs in important respects from that in most animals. In this Minireview, I provide an overview of the broad variety of ways in which plants determine sex. I suggest that several important peculiarities of plant sex determination can be understood by recognising that: plants show an alternation of generations between sporophytic and gametophytic phases (either of which may take control of sex determination); plants are modular in structure and lack a germ line (allowing for a quantitative expression of gender that is not common in animals); and separate sexes in plants have ultimately evolved from hermaphroditic ancestors. Most theorising about sex determination in plants has focused on dioecious species, but we have much to learn from monecious or hermaphroditic species, where sex is determined at the level of modules, tissues or cells. Because of the fundamental modularity of plant development and potentially important evolutionary links between monoecy and dioecy, it may be useful to relax the distinction often made between 'developmental sex determination' (which underpins the development of male versus female flowers in monoecious species) and 'genetic sex determination' (which underpins the separation of males and females in dioecious species, often mediated by a genetic polymorphism and sex chromosomes). I also argue for relaxing the distinction between sex determination involving a genetic polymorphism and that involving responses to environmental or hormonal cues, because non-genetic cues might easily be converted into genetic switches.
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