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Gametophyte

Gametophyte

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A gametophyte is the haploid, multicellular phase of plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s and algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 that undergo alternation of generations
Alternation of generations
Alternation of generations is a term primarily used in describing the life cycle of plants . A multicellular sporophyte, which is diploid with 2N paired chromosomes , alternates with a multicellular gametophyte, which is haploid with N unpaired chromosomes...

, with each of its cells containing only a single set of chromosomes.

The gametophyte produces male or female gamete
Gamete
A gamete is a cell that fuses with another cell during fertilization in organisms that reproduce sexually...

s (or both), by a process of cell division called mitosis
Mitosis
Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

. The fusion of male and female gametes produces a diploid zygote
Zygote
A zygote , or zygocyte, is the initial cell formed when two gamete cells are joined by means of sexual reproduction. In multicellular organisms, it is the earliest developmental stage of the embryo...

, which develops by repeated mitotic cell divisions into a multicellular sporophyte
Sporophyte
All land plants, and some algae, have life cycles in which a haploid gametophyte generation alternates with a diploid sporophyte, the generation of a plant or algae that has a double set of chromosomes. A multicellular sporophyte generation or phase is present in the life cycle of all land plants...

.
Because the sporophyte is the product of the fusion of two haploid gametes, its cells are diploid, containing two sets of chromosomes. The mature sporophyte produces spore
Spore
In biology, a spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many bacteria, plants, algae, fungi and some protozoa. According to scientist Dr...

s by a process called meiosis
Meiosis
Meiosis is a special type of cell division necessary for sexual reproduction. The cells produced by meiosis are gametes or spores. The animals' gametes are called sperm and egg cells....

, sometimes referred to as "reduction division" because the chromosome pairs are separated once again to form single sets. The spores are therefore once again haploid and develop into a haploid gametophyte.

In moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es, liverworts
Marchantiophyta
The Marchantiophyta are a division of bryophyte plants commonly referred to as hepatics or liverworts. Like other bryophytes, they have a gametophyte-dominant life cycle, in which cells of the plant carry only a single set of genetic information....

 and hornworts (bryophytes), the gametophyte is the commonly known phase of the plant. An early developmental stage in the gametophyte of mosses (immediately following germination of the meiospore) is called the protonema
Protonema
A protonema is a thread-like chain of cells that forms the earliest stage of a bryophyte life cycle...

. The adult gametophyte of mosses is called the gametophore
Gametophore
The word gametophore, also known as gametangiophore, is composed of gametangium and "phore" . In moss and fern the gametophore is the bearer of the sex organs , the female archegonia and the male antheridia. If the archegonia as well as the antheridia are arranged at the same plant, they are...

 as it carries the gamete-producing sex organs.

In most other land plants
Embryophyte
The land plants or embryophytes, more formally Embryophyta or Metaphyta, are the most familiar group of plants. They are called 'land plants' because they live primarily in terrestrial habitats, in contrast with the related green algae that are primarily aquatic. The embryophytes include trees,...

, the gametophyte is very small. In fern
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s the gametophyte is a free living organism called the prothallus, in contrast to angiosperms.

In gymnosperm
Gymnosperm
The gymnosperms are a group of seed-bearing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetales. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the Greek word gymnospermos , meaning "naked seeds", after the unenclosed condition of their seeds...

s and angiosperms, the gametophyte are reduced to only a few cells; in angiosperms the female gametophyte (sometimes called the "embryo sac") is known as a megagametophyte and the male gametophyte (pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

) is called a microgametophyte.

In some multicellular green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

, red algae
Red algae
The red algae are one of the oldest groups of eukaryotic algae, and also one of the largest, with about 5,000–6,000 species  of mostly multicellular, marine algae, including many notable seaweeds...

, or brown algae
Brown algae
The Phaeophyceae or brown algae , is a large group of mostly marine multicellular algae, including many seaweeds of colder Northern Hemisphere waters. They play an important role in marine environments, both as food and for the habitats they form...

 (Ulva is one example), the sporophytes and gametophytes are often isomorphic, but in some species the gametophyte may be reduced.

See also

  • Sporophyte
    Sporophyte
    All land plants, and some algae, have life cycles in which a haploid gametophyte generation alternates with a diploid sporophyte, the generation of a plant or algae that has a double set of chromosomes. A multicellular sporophyte generation or phase is present in the life cycle of all land plants...

  • Alternation of generations
    Alternation of generations
    Alternation of generations is a term primarily used in describing the life cycle of plants . A multicellular sporophyte, which is diploid with 2N paired chromosomes , alternates with a multicellular gametophyte, which is haploid with N unpaired chromosomes...

  • Archegonium
    Archegonium
    An archegonium , from the ancient Greek ἀρχή and γόνος , is a multicellular structure or organ of the gametophyte phase of certain plants, producing and containing the ovum or female gamete. The archegonium has a long neck canal and a swollen base...

  • Antheridium
    Antheridium
    An antheridium or antherida is a haploid structure or organ producing and containing male gametes . It is present in the gametophyte phase of lower plants like mosses and ferns, and also in the primitive vascular psilotophytes...