- Cells in maize (Zea mays) endosperm undergo multiple cycles of endoreduplication, with some attaining DNA contents as high as 96C and 192C. Genome amplification begins around 10 d after pollination, coincident with cell enlargement and the onset of starch and storage protein accumulation. Although the role of endoreduplication is unclear, it is thought to provide a mechanism that increases cell size and enhances gene expression. To investigate this process, we reduced endoreduplication in transgenic maize endosperm by ectopically expressing a gene encoding a dominant negative mutant form of cyclin-dependent kinase A. This gene was regulated by the 27-kD g-zein promoter, which restricted synthesis of the defective enzyme to the endoreduplication rather than the mitotic phase of endosperm development. Overexpression of a wild-type cyclin-dependent kinase A increased enzyme activity but had no effect on endoreduplication. By contrast, ectopic expression of the defective enzyme lowered kinase activity and reduced by half the mean C-value and total DNA content of endosperm nuclei. The lower level of endoreduplication did not affect cell size and only slightly reduced starch and storage protein accumulation. There was little difference in the level of endosperm gene expression with high and low levels of endoreduplication, suggesting that this process may not enhance transcription of genes associated with starch and storage protein synthesis.