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1.  Penetration of the Stigma and Style Elicits a Novel Transcriptome in Pollen Tubes, Pointing to Genes Critical for Growth in a Pistil 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(8):e1000621.
Pollen tubes extend through pistil tissues and are guided to ovules where they release sperm for fertilization. Although pollen tubes can germinate and elongate in a synthetic medium, their trajectory is random and their growth rates are slower compared to growth in pistil tissues. Furthermore, interaction with the pistil renders pollen tubes competent to respond to guidance cues secreted by specialized cells within the ovule. The molecular basis for this potentiation of the pollen tube by the pistil remains uncharacterized. Using microarray analysis in Arabidopsis, we show that pollen tubes that have grown through stigma and style tissues of a pistil have a distinct gene expression profile and express a substantially larger fraction of the Arabidopsis genome than pollen grains or pollen tubes grown in vitro. Genes involved in signal transduction, transcription, and pollen tube growth are overrepresented in the subset of the Arabidopsis genome that is enriched in pistil-interacted pollen tubes, suggesting the possibility of a regulatory network that orchestrates gene expression as pollen tubes migrate through the pistil. Reverse genetic analysis of genes induced during pollen tube growth identified seven that had not previously been implicated in pollen tube growth. Two genes are required for pollen tube navigation through the pistil, and five genes are required for optimal pollen tube elongation in vitro. Our studies form the foundation for functional genomic analysis of the interactions between the pollen tube and the pistil, which is an excellent system for elucidation of novel modes of cell–cell interaction.
Author Summary
For successful reproduction in flowering plants, a single-celled pollen tube must rapidly extend through female pistil tissue, locate female gametes, and deliver sperm. Pollen tubes undergo a dramatic transformation while growing in the pistil; they grow faster compared to tubes grown in vitro and become competent to perceive and respond to navigation cues secreted by the pistil. The genes expressed by pollen tubes in response to growth in the pistil have not been characterized. We used a surgical procedure to obtain large quantities of uncontaminated pollen tubes that grew through the pistil and defined their transcriptome by microarray analysis. Importantly, we identify a set of genes that are specifically expressed in pollen tubes in response to their growth in the pistil and are not expressed during other stages of pollen or plant development. We analyzed mutants in 33 pollen tube–expressed genes using a sensitive series of pollen function assays and demonstrate that seven of these genes are critical for pollen tube growth; two specifically disrupt growth in the pistil. By identifying pollen tube genes induced by the pistil and describing a mutant analysis scheme to understand their function, we lay the foundation for functional genomic analysis of pollen–pistil interactions.
PMCID: PMC2726614  PMID: 19714218
2.  Whole-Organ analysis of calcium behaviour in the developing pistil of olive (Olea europaea L.) as a tool for the determination of key events in sexual plant reproduction 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:150.
The pistil is a place where multiple interactions between cells of different types, origin, and function occur. Ca2+ is one of the key signal molecules in plants and animals. Despite the numerous studies on Ca2+ signalling during pollen-pistil interactions, which constitute one of the main topics of plant physiology, studies on Ca2+ dynamics in the pistil during flower formation are scarce. The purpose of this study was to analyze the contents and in situ localization of Ca2+ at the whole-organ level in the pistil of olive during the whole course of flower development.
The obtained results showed significant changes in Ca2+ levels and distribution during olive pistil development. In the flower buds, the lowest levels of detectable Ca2+ were observed. As flower development proceeded, the Ca2+ amount in the pistil successively increased and reached the highest levels just after anther dehiscence. When the anthers and petals fell down a dramatic but not complete drop in calcium contents occurred in all pistil parts. In situ Ca2+ localization showed a gradual accumulation on the stigma, and further expansion toward the style and the ovary after anther dehiscence. At the post-anthesis phase, the Ca2+ signal on the stigmatic surface decreased, but in the ovary a specific accumulation of calcium was observed only in one of the four ovules. Ultrastructural localization confirmed the presence of Ca2+ in the intracellular matrix and in the exudate secreted by stigmatic papillae.
This is the first report to analyze calcium in the olive pistil during its development. According to our results in situ calcium localization by Fluo-3 AM injection is an effective tool to follow the pistil maturity degree and the spatial organization of calcium-dependent events of sexual reproduction occurring in developing pistil of angiosperms. The progressive increase of the Ca2+ pool during olive pistil development shown by us reflects the degree of pistil maturity. Ca2+ distribution at flower anthesis reflects the spatio-functional relationship of calcium with pollen-stigma interaction, progamic phase, fertilization and stigma senescence.
PMCID: PMC3228850  PMID: 22050767
3.  The progamic phase of an early-divergent angiosperm, Annona cherimola (Annonaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2009;105(2):221-231.
Background and Aims
Recent studies of reproductive biology in ancient angiosperm lineages are beginning to shed light on the early evolution of flowering plants, but comparative studies are restricted by fragmented and meagre species representation in these angiosperm clades. In the present study, the progamic phase, from pollination to fertilization, is characterized in Annona cherimola, which is a member of the Annonaceae, the largest extant family among early-divergent angiosperms. Beside interest due to its phylogenetic position, this species is also an ancient crop with a clear niche for expansion in subtropical climates.
The kinetics of the reproductive process was established following controlled pollinations and sequential fixation. Gynoecium anatomy, pollen tube pathway, embryo sac and early post-fertilization events were characterized histochemically.
Key Results
A plesiomorphic gynoecium with a semi-open carpel shows a continuous secretory papillar surface along the carpel margins, which run from the stigma down to the obturator in the ovary. The pollen grains germinate in the stigma and compete in the stigma-style interface to reach the narrow secretory area that lines the margins of the semi-open stylar canal and is able to host just one to three pollen tubes. The embryo sac has eight nuclei and is well provisioned with large starch grains that are used during early cellular endosperm development.
A plesiomorphic simple gynoecium hosts a simple pollen–pistil interaction, based on a support–control system of pollen tube growth. Support is provided through basipetal secretory activity in the cells that line the pollen tube pathway. Spatial constraints, favouring pollen tube competition, are mediated by a dramatic reduction in the secretory surface available for pollen tube growth at the stigma–style interface. This extramural pollen tube competition contrasts with the intrastylar competition predominant in more recently derived lineages of angiosperms.
PMCID: PMC2814751  PMID: 19939980
Annona cherimola; Annonaceae; embryo sac; endosperm; Magnoliid; ovule; pollen–pistil interaction; pollen tube
4.  The evolution of pollen germination timing in flowering plants: Austrobaileya scandens (Austrobaileyaceae) 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls010.
Austrobaileya has long served as a model for ancient angiosperm pollen structure. Its pollen germination is relatively rapid and requires < 10 % of the progamic phase. Extensive evidence suggests pollen germination underwent acceleration early in angiosperm history.
Background and aims
The pollination to fertilization process (progamic phase) is thought to have become greatly abbreviated with the origin of flowering plants. In order to understand what developmental mechanisms enabled the speeding of fertilization, comparative data are needed from across the group, especially from early-divergent lineages. I studied the pollen germination process of Austrobaileya scandens, a perennial vine endemic to the Wet Tropics area of northeastern Queensland, Australia, and a member of the ancient angiosperm lineage, Austrobaileyales.
I used in vivo and in vitro hand pollinations and timed collections to study development from late pollen maturation to just after germination. Then I compared the contribution of pollen germination timing to progamic phase duration in 131 angiosperm species (65 families).
Principal findings
Mature pollen of Austrobaileya was bicellular, starchless and moderately dehydrated—water content was 31.5 % by weight and volume increased by 57.9 % upon hydration. A callose layer in the inner intine appeared only after pollination. In vivo pollen germination followed a logarithmic curve, rising from 28 % at 1 hour after pollination (hap) to 97 % at 12 hap (R2 = 0.98). Sufficient pollen germination to fertilize all ovules was predicted to have occurred within 62 min. Across angiosperms, pollen germination ranged from 1 min to >60 h long and required 8.3 ± 9.8 % of the total duration of the progamic phase.
Pollen of Austrobaileya has many plesiomorphic features that are thought to prolong germination. Yet its germination is quite fast for species with desiccation-tolerant pollen (range: <1 to 60 h). Austrobaileya and other early-divergent angiosperms have relatively rapid pollen germination and short progamic phases, comparable to those of many insect-pollinated monocots and eudicots. These results suggest that both the pollen germination and pollen tube growth periods were marked by acceleration of developmental processes early in angiosperm history.
PMCID: PMC3345124  PMID: 22567221
5.  Molecular cloning and transcriptional activity of a new Petunia calreticulin gene involved in pistil transmitting tract maturation, progamic phase, and double fertilization 
Planta  2013;239(2):437-454.
Calreticulin (CRT) is a highly conserved and ubiquitously expressed Ca2+-binding protein in multicellular eukaryotes. As an endoplasmic reticulum-resident protein, CRT plays a key role in many cellular processes including Ca2+ storage and release, protein synthesis, and molecular chaperoning in both animals and plants. CRT has long been suggested to play a role in plant sexual reproduction. To begin to address this possibility, we cloned and characterized the full-length cDNA of a new CRT gene (PhCRT) from Petunia. The deduced amino acid sequence of PhCRT shares homology with other known plant CRTs, and phylogenetic analysis indicates that the PhCRT cDNA clone belongs to the CRT1/CRT2 subclass. Northern blot analysis and fluorescent in situ hybridization were used to assess PhCRT gene expression in different parts of the pistil before pollination, during subsequent stages of the progamic phase, and at fertilization. The highest level of PhCRT mRNA was detected in the stigma–style part of the unpollinated pistil 1 day before anthesis and during the early stage of the progamic phase, when pollen is germinated and tubes outgrow on the stigma. In the ovary, PhCRT mRNA was most abundant after pollination and reached maximum at the late stage of the progamic phase, when pollen tubes grow into the ovules and fertilization occurs. PhCRT mRNA transcripts were seen to accumulate predominantly in transmitting tract cells of maturing and receptive stigma, in germinated pollen/growing tubes, and at the micropylar region of the ovule, where the female gametophyte is located. From these results, we suggest that PhCRT gene expression is up-regulated during secretory activity of the pistil transmitting tract cells, pollen germination and outgrowth of the tubes, and then during gamete fusion and early embryogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3902078  PMID: 24213153
Calcium homeostasis; Calreticulin; Chaperone activity; Gene expression; Nucleolus; Pollen–pistil interactions
6.  Comparison of ultrastructure, pollen tube growth pattern and starch content in developing and abortive ovaries during the progamic phase in hazel 
HIGHLIGHTS In an abortive ovary of hazel, an integument seldom differentiated and a mature embryo sac never developed.In an abortive ovary of hazel, pollen tube growth was arrested at the style base about 40 days after blooming. Thus, fertilization of the ovule was precluded.Ovary abortion in the four hybrid cultivars was indicated to be associated with insufficient resource availability to support fruit set by all flowers, whereas ovary abortion in C. heterophylla was at least partly determined by pollen availability.
In Northeast China, a high frequency of ovary abortion contributes to serious losses in yield of hazelnut. The development of pistillate inflorescences and fruit clusters of four large-fruited hybrid hazel cultivars and the small-fruited Corylus heterophylla were used to study ovary abortion and its possible causes during the progamic phase in hazel. The average number of pistillate (ANP) flowers per inflorescence and average number of fruit (ANF) per cluster of four hybrid hazel cultivars were 7.6–8.5 and 2.4–3.0 respectively; in C. heterophylla, its ANP and ANF was 5.8–6.2 and 3.5, respectively. The total drop varied from 50 to 67%. Ovary abortion in hazel initiated from about 30 days after blooming. The percentage of abortive ovaries (PAO) in the four hybrid hazel cultivars ranged from 63 to 72%, and was significantly higher than that of C. heterophylla (29–42%). Only the abortive ovary ratio of C. heterophylla was significantly reduced after artificial pollination. Fruit number per cluster was positively and negatively correlated with yield and nut mass, respectively. In abortive ovaries, the diameter remained less than 2 mm during the entire fruit development, an integument seldom differentiated and a mature embryo sac never developed. In addition, pollen tube growth was arrested at the style base about 40 days after blooming. Thus, fertilization of the ovule was precluded. Compared with abortive ovary, starch content in developing ovary of four hybrid hazel cultivars and C. heterophylla were significantly higher. This study suggests that abortive ovary was incapable to finish fertilization process due to the absence of mature embryo sac and arrested pollen tubes, and this is likely associate with insufficient resource availability to support fruit set by all flowers in four hybrid hazel cultivars, whereas ovary abortion in C. heterophylla is at least partly determined by pollen availability.
PMCID: PMC4186277  PMID: 25339969
hazelnut; abortive ovary; pistillate inflorescence; fruit cluster; delayed fertilization
7.  Proteins implicated in mediating self-incompatibility-induced alterations to the actin cytoskeleton of Papaver pollen 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):659-675.
Background and Aims
Sexual reproduction in angiosperms involves a network of signalling and interactions between pollen and pistil. To promote out-breeding, an additional layer of interactions, involving self-incompatibility (SI), is used to prevent self-fertilization. SI is generally controlled by the S-locus, and comprises allelic pollen and pistil S-determinants. This provides the basis of recognition, and consequent rejection, of incompatible pollen. In Papaver rhoeas, SI involves interaction of pistil PrsS and pollen PrpS, triggering a Ca2+-dependent signalling network. This results in rapid and distinctive alterations to both the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton being triggered in ‘self’ pollen. Some of these alterations are implicated in mediating programmed cell death, involving activation of several caspase-like proteases.
Here we review and discuss our current understanding of the cytoskeletal alterations induced in incompatible pollen during SI and their relationship with programmed cell death. We focus on data relating to the formation of F-actin punctate foci, which have, to date, not been well characterized. The identification of two actin-binding proteins that interact with these structures are reviewed. Using an approach that enriched for F-actin from SI-induced pollen tubes using affinity purification followed by mass spectrometry, further proteins were identified as putative interactors with the F-actin foci in an SI situation.
Key Results
Previously two important actin-binding proteins, CAP and ADF, had been identified whose localization altered with SI, both showing co-localization with the F-actin punctate foci based on immunolocalization studies. Further analysis has identified differences between proteins associated with F-actin from SI-induced pollen samples and those associated with F-actin in untreated pollen. This provides candidate proteins implicated in either the formation or stabilization of the punctate actin structures formed during SI.
This review brings together for the first time, our current understanding of proteins and events involved in SI-induced signalling to the actin cytoskeleton in incompatible Papaver pollen.
PMCID: PMC3170148  PMID: 21320881
Actin cytoskeleton; actin-binding proteins; mass spectrometry; Papaver rhoeas; pollen; self-incompatibility; signalling
8.  Sulfinylated Azadecalins act as functional mimics of a pollen germination stimulant in Arabidopsis pistils 
Polarized cell elongation is triggered by small molecule cues during development of diverse organisms. During plant reproduction, pollen interactions with the stigma result in the polar outgrowth of a pollen tube, which delivers sperm cells to the female gametophyte to effect double fertilization. In many plants, pistils stimulate pollen germination. However, in Arabidopsis, the effect of pistils on pollen germination and the pistil factors that stimulate pollen germination remain poorly characterized. Here, we demonstrate that stigma, style, and ovules in Arabidopsis pistils stimulate pollen germination. We isolated an Arabidopsis pistil extract fraction that stimulates Arabidopsis pollen germination, and employed ultrahigh resolution ESI FT-ICR and MS/MS techniques to accurately determine the mass (202.126 daltons) of a compound that is specifically present in this pistil extract fraction. Using the molecular formula (C10H19NOS) and tandem mass spectral fragmentation patterns of the m/z (mass to charge ratio) 202.126 ion, we postulated chemical structures, devised protocols, synthesized N-Methanesulfinyl 1- and 2-azadecalins that are close structural mimics of the m/z 202.126 ion, and showed that they are sufficient to stimulate Arabidopsis pollen germination in vitro (30 µM stimulated ~50% germination) and elicit accession-specific response. Although N-Methanesulfinyl 2-azadecalin stimulated pollen germination in three species of Lineage I of Brassicaceae, it did not induce a germination response in Sisymbrium irio (Lineage II of Brassicaceae) and tobacco, indicating that activity of the compound is not random. Our results show that Arabidopsis pistils promote germination by producing azadecalin-like molecules to ensure rapid fertilization by the appropriate pollen.
PMCID: PMC3225508  PMID: 21801250
Pollen; pistil; germination; stimulant; chemical biology; functional mimic
9.  Spatial and temporal localization of homogalacturonans in Hyacinthus orientalis L. ovule cells before and after fertilization 
Plant Cell Reports  2014;34:97-109.
Key message
The composition of homogalacturonans (HGs) in the ovule and the female gametophyte cell walls was shown to be rearranged dynamically during sexual reproduction ofH. orientalis.
In angiosperms, homogalacturonans (HGs) play an important role in the interaction between the male gametophyte and the pistil transmitting tract, but little is known about the participation of these molecules at the final stage of the progamic phase and fertilization. The aim of our study was to perform immunocytochemical localization of highly (JIM7 MAb) and weakly (JIM5 MAb) methyl esterified and Ca2+-associated HG (2F4 MAb) in the ovule and female gametophyte cells of Hyacinthus orientalis before and after fertilization. It was found that pollination induced the rearrangement of HG in (1) the micropylar canal of the ovule, (2) the filiform apparatus of the synergids, and (3) the region of fusion between sperm cells and their target cells. Fertilization led to further changes in pectin composition of these three regions of the ovule. A new cell wall was synthesized around the zygote with a characteristic pattern of localization of all examined HG fractions, which we called “sporoderm-like”. The developing endosperm prepared for cellularization by synthesizing highly methyl-esterified HG, which was stored in the cytoplasm. Pollination- and fertilization-induced changes in the composition of the HG in the micropyle of the ovule and the apoplast of female gametophyte cells are discussed in the context of: (1) micropylar pollen tube guidance, (2) preparation of the egg cell and the central cells for fusion with sperm cells, and (3) the polyspermy block.
PMCID: PMC4282716  PMID: 25292437
Homogalacturonan (HG); Pectin; Ovule; Embryo sac; Hyacinthus orientalis
10.  The effect of temperature on reproduction in the summer and winter annual Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes Bur and Cvi 
Annals of Botany  2014;113(6):921-929.
Background and Aims
Seed yield and dormancy status are key components of species fitness that are influenced by the maternal environment, in particular temperature. Responses to environmental conditions can differ between ecotypes of the same species. Therefore, to investigate the effect of maternal environment on seed production, this study compared two contrasting Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes, Cape Verdi Isle (Cvi) and Burren (Bur). Cvi is adapted to a hot dry climate and Bur to a cool damp climate, and they exhibit winter and summer annual phenotypes, respectively.
Bur and Cvi plants were grown in reciprocal controlled environments that simulated their native environments. Reproductive development, seed production and subsequent germination behaviour were investigated. Measurements included: pollen viability, the development of floral structure, and germination at 10 and 25 °C in the light to determine dormancy status. Floral development was further investigated by applying gibberellins (GAs) to alter the pistil:stamen ratio.
Key Results
Temperature during seed development determined seed dormancy status. In addition, seed yield was greatly reduced by higher temperature, especially in Bur (>90 %) compared with Cvi (approx. 50 %). The reproductive organs (i.e. stamens) of Bur plants were very sensitive to high temperature during early flowering. Viability of pollen was unaffected, but limited filament extension relative to that of the pistils resulted in failure to pollinate. Thus GA applied to flowers to enhance filament extension largely overcame the effect of high temperature on yield.
High temperature in the maternal environment reduced dormancy and negatively affected the final seed yield of both ecotypes; however, the extent of these responses differed, demonstrating natural variation. Reduced seed yield in Bur resulted from altered floral development not reduced pollen viability. Future higher temperatures will impact on seed performance, but the consequences may differ significantly between ecotypes of the same species.
PMCID: PMC3997633  PMID: 24573642
Maternal temperature; seed yield; seed dormancy; flower development; Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes; winter annual; summer annual; Cvi; Burren; climate change
11.  Pollen–pistil interactions and self-incompatibility in the Asteraceae: new insights from studies of Senecio squalidus (Oxford ragwort) 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):687-698.
Pollen–pistil interactions are an essential prelude to fertilization in angiosperms and determine compatibility/incompatibility. Pollen–pistil interactions have been studied at a molecular and cellular level in relatively few families. Self-incompatibility (SI) is the best understood pollen–pistil interaction at a molecular level where three different molecular mechanisms have been identified in just five families. Here we review studies of pollen–pistil interactions and SI in the Asteraceae, an important family that has been relatively understudied in these areas of reproductive biology.
We begin by describing the historical literature which first identified sporophytic SI (SSI) in species of Asteraceae, the SI system later identified and characterized at a molecular level in the Brassicaceae. Early structural and cytological studies in these two families suggested that pollen–pistil interactions and SSI were similar, if not the same. Recent cellular and molecular studies in Senecio squalidus (Oxford ragwort) have challenged this belief by revealing that despite sharing the same genetic system of SSI, the Brassicaceae and Asteraceae molecular mechanisms are different. Key cellular differences have also been highlighted in pollen–stigma interactions, which may arise as a consequence of the Asteraceae possessing a ‘semi-dry’ stigma, rather than the ‘dry’ stigma typical of the Brassicaceae. The review concludes with a summary of recent transcriptomic analyses aimed at identifying proteins regulating pollen–pistil interactions and SI in S. squalidus, and by implication the Asteraceae. The Senecio pistil transcriptome contains many novel pistil-specific genes, but also pistil-specific genes previously shown to play a role in pollen–pistil interactions in other species.
Studies in S. squalidus have shown that stigma structure and the molecular mechanism of SSI in the Asteraceae and Brassicaceae are different. The availability of a pool of pistil-specific genes for S. squalidus offers an opportunity to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of pollen–pistil interactions and SI in the Asteraceae.
PMCID: PMC3170154  PMID: 21752792
Asteraceae; Senecio; pistil; stigma; pollen; pollen–pistil interactions; self-incompatibility; transcriptome
12.  Loss of the Arabidopsis thaliana P4-ATPases ALA6 and ALA7 impairs pollen fitness and alters the pollen tube plasma membrane 
Members of the P4 subfamily of P-type ATPases are thought to create and maintain lipid asymmetry in biological membranes by flipping specific lipids between membrane leaflets. In Arabidopsis, 7 of the 12 Aminophospholipid ATPase (ALA) family members are expressed in pollen. Here we show that double knockout of ALA6 and ALA7 (ala6/7) results in siliques with a ~2-fold reduction in seed set with a high frequency of empty seed positions near the bottom. Seed set was reduced to near zero when plants were grown under a hot/cold temperature stress. Reciprocal crosses indicate that the ala6/7 reproductive deficiencies are due to a defect related to pollen transmission. In-vitro growth assays provide evidence that ala6/7 pollen tubes are short and slow, with ~2-fold reductions in both maximal growth rate and overall length relative to wild-type. Outcrosses show that when ala6/7 pollen are in competition with wild-type pollen, they have a near 0% success rate in fertilizing ovules near the bottom of the pistil, consistent with ala6/7 pollen having short and slow growth defects. The ala6/7 phenotypes were rescued by the expression of either an ALA6-YFP or GFP-ALA6 fusion protein, which showed localization to both the plasma membrane and highly-mobile endomembrane structures. A mass spectrometry analysis of mature pollen grains revealed significant differences between ala6/7 and wild-type, both in the relative abundance of lipid classes and in the average number of double bonds present in acyl side chains. A change in the properties of the ala6/7 plasma membrane was also indicated by a ~10-fold reduction of labeling by lipophilic FM-dyes relative to wild-type. Together, these results indicate that ALA6 and ALA7 provide redundant activities that function to directly or indirectly change the distribution and abundance of lipids in pollen, and support a model in which ALA6 and ALA7 are critical for pollen fitness under normal and temperature-stress conditions.
PMCID: PMC4404812  PMID: 25954280
pollen; temperature stress tolerance; lipid flippases; phosphatidic acid; phosphatidylinositol
13.  Physiological and proteomic approaches to address heat tolerance during anthesis in rice (Oryza sativa L.) 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;61(1):143-156.
Episodes of high temperature at anthesis, which in rice is the most sensitive stage to temperature, are expected to occur more frequently in future climates. The morphology of the reproductive organs and pollen number, and changes in anther protein expression, were studied in response to high temperature at anthesis in three rice (Oryza sativa L.) genotypes. Plants were exposed to 6 h of high (38 °C) and control (29 °C) temperature at anthesis and spikelets collected for morphological and proteomic analysis. Moroberekan was the most heat-sensitive genotype (18% spikelet fertility at 38 °C), while IR64 (48%) and N22 (71%) were moderately and highly heat tolerant, respectively. There were significant differences among the genotypes in anther length and width, apical and basal pore lengths, apical pore area, and stigma and pistil length. Temperature also affected some of these traits, increasing anther pore size and reducing stigma length. Nonetheless, variation in the number of pollen on the stigma could not be related to measured morphological traits. Variation in spikelet fertility was highly correlated (r=0.97, n=6) with the proportion of spikelets with ≥20 germinated pollen grains on the stigma. A 2D-gel electrophoresis showed 46 protein spots changing in abundance, of which 13 differentially expressed protein spots were analysed by MS/MALDI-TOF. A cold and a heat shock protein were found significantly up-regulated in N22, and this may have contributed to the greater heat tolerance of N22. The role of differentially expressed proteins and morphology during anther dehiscence and pollination in shaping heat tolerance and susceptibility is discussed.
PMCID: PMC2791117  PMID: 19858118
Anther; high temperature; pollen; proteomics; rice; spikelet fertility
14.  MYB97, MYB101 and MYB120 Function as Male Factors That Control Pollen Tube-Synergid Interaction in Arabidopsis thaliana Fertilization 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(11):e1003933.
Pollen tube reception involves a pollen tube-synergid interaction that controls the discharge of sperm cells into the embryo sac during plant fertilization. Despite its importance in the sexual reproduction of plants, little is known about the role of gene regulation in this process. We report here that the pollen-expressed transcription factors MYB97, MYB101 and MYB120 probably control genes whose encoded proteins play important roles in Arabidopsis thaliana pollen tube reception. They share a high amino acid sequence identity and are expressed mainly in mature pollen grains and pollen tubes. None of the single or double mutants of these three genes exhibited any visible defective phenotype. Although the myb97 myb101 myb120 triple mutant was not defective in pollen development, pollen germination, pollen tube growth or tube guidance, the pollen tubes of the triple mutants exhibited uncontrolled growth and failed to discharge their sperm cells after entering the embryo sac. In addition, the myb97 myb101 myb120 triple mutation significantly affected the expression of a group of pollen-expressed genes in mature pollen grains. All these results indicate that MYB97, MYB101 and MYB120 participate in pollen tube reception, possibly by controlling the expression of downstream genes.
Author Summary
Pollen tube reception is an important step of fertilization and is controlled by interactions between the pollen tube and synergid. Components of both the pollen tube and synergid are believed to be involved in the process. Several proteins associated with this process have been identified in synergid cells. However, very little is known about the components contributed by the pollen tube. This work identified a group of Arabidopsis pollen-expressed MYB transcription factors, among which at least three members are involved in pollen tube reception. The myb97 myb101 myb120 triple mutation caused overgrowth of the pollen tube into the embryo sac and disrupted sperm cell discharge, leading to failed fertilization. This study provides novel evidence demonstrating that male factors are involved in pollen tube reception.
PMCID: PMC3836714  PMID: 24278028
15.  Ethylene is involved in maintaining tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) pollen quality under heat-stress conditions 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls024.
The paper supports the view that ethylene plays a significant role in maintaining tomato pollen thermotolerance. Interfering with the ethylene signalling pathway or reducing ethylene levels and increased tomato pollen sensitivity to heat stress. On the other hand, increasing ethylene levels before heat-stress improved pollen quality.
Background and aims
Exposure to higher-than-optimal temperatures reduces crop yield and quality, mainly due to sensitivity of developing pollen grains. The mechanisms maintaining high pollen quality under heat-stress conditions are poorly understood. Our recently published data indicate high heat-stress-induced expression of ethylene-responsive genes in tomato pollen, indicating ethylene involvement in the pollen heat-stress response. Here we elucidated ethylene's involvement in pollen heat-stress response and thermotolerance by assessing the effects of interfering with the ethylene signalling pathway and altering ethylene levels on tomato pollen functioning under heat stress.
Plants of the ethylene-insensitive mutant Never ripe (Nr)—defective in an ethylene response sensor (ERS)-like ethylene receptor—and the corresponding wild type were exposed to control or heat-stress growing conditions, and pollen quality was determined. Starch and carbohydrates were measured in isolated pollen grains from these plants. The effect of pretreating cv. Micro-Tom tomato plants, prior to heat-stress exposure, with an ethylene releaser or inhibitor of ethylene biosynthesis on pollen quality was assessed.
Principal results
Never ripe pollen grains exhibited higher heat-stress sensitivity, manifested by a significant reduction in the total number of pollen grains, reduction in the number of viable pollen and elevation of the number of non-viable pollen, compared with wild-type plants. Mature Nr pollen grains accumulated only 40 % of the sucrose level accumulated by the wild type. Pretreatment of tomato plants with an ethylene releaser increased pollen quality under heat stress, with an over 5-fold increase in the number of germinating pollen grains per flower. Pretreatment with an ethylene biosynthesis inhibitor reduced the number of germinating pollen grains following heat-stress exposure over 5-fold compared with non-treated controls.
Ethylene plays a significant role in tomato pollen thermotolerance. Interfering with the ethylene signalling pathway or reducing ethylene levels increased tomato pollen sensitivity to heat stress, whereas increasing ethylene levels prior to heat-stress exposure increased pollen quality.
PMCID: PMC3461890  PMID: 23050072
16.  Comprehensive Cell-specific Protein Analysis in Early and Late Pollen Development from Diploid Microsporocytes to Pollen Tube Growth* 
Pollen development in angiosperms is one of the most important processes controlling plant reproduction and thus productivity. At the same time, pollen development is highly sensitive to environmental fluctuations, including temperature, drought, and nutrition. Therefore, pollen biology is a major focus in applied studies and breeding approaches for improving plant productivity in a globally changing climate. The most accessible developmental stages of pollen are the mature pollen and the pollen tubes, and these are thus most frequently analyzed. To reveal a complete quantitative proteome map, we additionally addressed the very early stages, analyzing eight stages of tobacco pollen development: diploid microsporocytes, meiosis, tetrads, microspores, polarized microspores, bipolar pollen, desiccated pollen, and pollen tubes. A protocol for the isolation of the early stages was established. Proteins were extracted and analyzed by means of a new gel LC-MS fractionation protocol. In total, 3817 protein groups were identified. Quantitative analysis was performed based on peptide count. Exceedingly stage-specific differential protein regulation was observed during the conversion from the sporophytic to the gametophytic proteome. A map of highly specialized functionality for the different stages could be revealed from the metabolic activity and pronounced differentiation of proteasomal and ribosomal protein complex composition up to protective mechanisms such as high levels of heat shock proteins in the very early stages of development.
PMCID: PMC3879621  PMID: 24078888
17.  The Metabolic Basis of Pollen Thermo-Tolerance: Perspectives for Breeding 
Metabolites  2014;4(4):889-920.
Crop production is highly sensitive to elevated temperatures. A rise of a few degrees above the optimum growing temperature can lead to a dramatic yield loss. A predicted increase of 1–3 degrees in the twenty first century urges breeders to develop thermo-tolerant crops which are tolerant to high temperatures. Breeding for thermo-tolerance is a challenge due to the low heritability of this trait. A better understanding of heat stress tolerance and the development of reliable methods to phenotype thermo-tolerance are key factors for a successful breeding approach. Plant reproduction is the most temperature-sensitive process in the plant life cycle. More precisely, pollen quality is strongly affected by heat stress conditions. High temperature leads to a decrease of pollen viability which is directly correlated with a loss of fruit production. The reduction in pollen viability is associated with changes in the level and composition of several (groups of) metabolites, which play an important role in pollen development, for example by contributing to pollen nutrition or by providing protection to environmental stresses. This review aims to underline the importance of maintaining metabolite homeostasis during pollen development, in order to produce mature and fertile pollen under high temperature. The review will give an overview of the current state of the art on the role of various pollen metabolites in pollen homeostasis and thermo-tolerance. Their possible use as metabolic markers to assist breeding programs for plant thermo-tolerance will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4279151  PMID: 25271355
pollen; heat stress; thermotolerance; high temperature; metabolite; breeding
18.  Calreticulin expression in relation to exchangeable Ca2+ level that changes dynamically during anthesis, progamic phase, and double fertilization in Petunia 
Planta  2014;241:209-227.
Calcium (Ca2+) plays essential roles in plant sexual reproduction, but the sites and the mechanism of Ca2+ mobile storage during pollen–pistil interactions have not been fully defined. Because the Ca2+-buffering protein calreticulin (CRT) is able to bind and sequester Ca2+, it can serve as a mobile intracellular store of easily releasable Ca2+ and control its local concentration within the cytoplasm. Our previous studies showed an enhanced expression of Petunia hybrida CRT gene (PhCRT) during pistil transmitting tract maturation, pollen germination and tube outgrowth on the stigma, gamete fusion, and early embryogenesis. Here, we demonstrate that elevated expression of CRT results in the accumulation of this protein in response to anthesis, pollination, sperm cells deposition within the receptive synergid and fertilization, when the level of exchangeable Ca2+ changes dynamically. CRT localizes mainly to the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi compartments in the pistil transmitting tract cells, germinated pollen/tubes, and sporophytic/gametophytic cells of the ovule and corresponds with loosely bound Ca2+. Additionally, the immunogold research shows, for the first time, highly selective CRT distribution in specific nuclear sub-domains. On the basis of our results, we discuss the possible functions of CRT with respect to the critical role of Ca2+ homeostasis during key events of the multi-step process of generative reproduction in angiosperms.
PMCID: PMC4282720  PMID: 25262422
Calcium homeostasis; Chaperone activity; Embryo sac; Nucleus; Pollen germination and tube growth; Receptive synergid; Stigma
19.  Three MYB transcription factors control pollen tube differentiation required for sperm release 
Current biology : CB  2013;23(13):1209-1214.
In flowering plants, immotile sperm cells develop within the pollen grain and are delivered to female gametes by a pollen tube [1, 2]. Upon arrival at the female gametophyte, the pollen tube stops growing and releases sperm cells for successful fertilization [3]. Several female signaling components essential for pollen tube reception have been identified [4–11]); however, male components remain unknown. We show that the expression of three closely related MYB transcription factors is induced in pollen tubes by growth in the pistil. Pollen tubes lacking these three transcriptional regulators fail to stop growing in synergids, specialized cells flanking the egg cell that attract pollen tubes [12–16] and degenerate upon pollen tube arrival [17, 18]. myb triple mutant pollen tubes also fail to release their sperm cargo. We define a suite of pollen tube-expressed genes regulated by these critical MYBs and identify transporters, carbohydrate active enzymes, and small peptides as candidate molecular mediators of pollen-female interactions necessary for flowering plant reproduction. Our data indicate that de novo transcription in the pollen tube nucleus during growth in the pistil leads to pollen tube differentiation required for release of sperm cells.
PMCID: PMC4009620  PMID: 23791732
20.  Pollen tube growth and guidance: roles of small, secreted proteins 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):627-636.
Pollination is a crucial step in angiosperm (flowering plant) reproduction. Highly orchestrated pollen–pistil interactions and signalling events enable plant species to avoid inbreeding and outcrossing as a species-specific barrier. In compatible pollination, pollen tubes carrying two sperm cells grow through the pistil transmitting tract and are precisely guided to the ovules, discharging the sperm cells to the embryo sac for fertilization.
In Lilium longiflorum pollination, growing pollen tubes utilize two critical mechanisms, adhesion and chemotropism, for directional growth to the ovules. Among several molecular factors discovered in the past decade, two small, secreted cysteine-rich proteins have been shown to play major roles in pollen tube adhesion and reorientation bioassays: stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA, approx. 9·3 kDa) and chemocyanin (approx. 9·8 kDa). SCA, a lipid transfer protein (LTP) secreted from the stylar transmitting tract epidermis, functions in lily pollen tube tip growth as well as in forming the adhesive pectin matrix at the growing pollen tube wall back from the tip. Lily chemocyanin is a plantacyanin family member and acts as a directional cue for reorienting pollen tubes. Recent consecutive studies revealed that Arabidopsis thaliana homologues for SCA and chemocyanin play pivotal roles in tip polarity and directionality of pollen tube growth, respectively. This review outlines the biological roles of various secreted proteins in angiosperm pollination, focusing on plant LTPs and chemocyanin.
PMCID: PMC3170145  PMID: 21307038
Angiosperm fertilization; Arabidopsis thaliana; chemocyanin; cysteine-rich peptides (CRPs); Lilium longiflorum; lipid transfer proteins (LTPs); plantacyanins; pollen tube tip growth; stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA)
21.  Mode of Pollen-Tube Growth in Pistils of Myrica rubra (Myricaceae): A Comparison with Related Families 
Annals of Botany  2006;97(1):71-77.
• Background and Aims It is generally known that fertilization is delayed for more than a few weeks after pollination in Fagales. Recent studies showed that, during that period, pollen tubes grew in pistils in close association with the development of the ovule in a five-step process in Casuarina (Casuarinaceae) and a four-step process in Alnus (Betulaceae). The number of pollen tubes was reduced from many to one, a fact suggesting that delayed fertilization plays a role for gametophyte selection. Myrica (Myricaceae) also shows delayed fertilization for >2 weeks after pollination, but nothing is known of how pollen tubes grow in the pistil during that period.
• Methods Pollen-tube growth and the development of the ovule in pistils was investigated by fluorescent and scanning electron microscopy and analysis of microtome sections of the pistils.
• Key Results Developmental study of the pollen-tube growth in the pistil of M. rubra showed that the tip of the pollen tube was branched or lay in a zigzag pattern in the upper space of the ovarian locule or near the tip of the integument, and subsequently was swollen on the nucellar surface. Such morphological changes indicate that the pollen-tube growth was temporarily arrested before fertilization. The pollen-tube growth in M. rubra can therefore be summarized as occurring in three steps: (1) from the stigma to the ovarian locule; (2) from the ovarian locule to the nucellar surface; and (3) from the nucellar surface to the embryo sac.
• Conclusion Myrica differs from other families in that the pollen tubes arrest their growth on the nucellar surface, probably digesting nutrient from nucellar cells. There is little information on five other families of Fagales. An extensive study is needed to better understand the diversity and function of the mode of pollen-tube growth within the order.
PMCID: PMC2803377  PMID: 16291781
Fagales; fertilization; micropyle; Myrica; Myricaceae; pollen-tube growth
22.  Sporophytic control of pollen tube growth and guidance in maize 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;61(3):673-682.
Pollen tube germination, growth, and guidance (progamic phase) culminating in sperm discharge is a multi-stage process including complex interactions between the male gametophyte as well as sporophytic tissues and the female gametophyte (embryo sac), respectively. Inter- and intra-specific crossing barriers in maize and Tripsacum have been studied and a precise description of progamic pollen tube development in maize is reported here. It was found that pollen germination and initial tube growth are rather unspecific, but an early, first crossing barrier was detected before arrival at the transmitting tract. Pollination of maize silks with Tripsacum pollen and incompatible pollination of Ga1s/Ga1s-maize silks with ga1-maize pollen revealed another two incompatibility barriers, namely transmitting tract mistargeting and insufficient growth support. Attraction and growth support by the transmitting tract seem to play key roles for progamic pollen tube growth. After leaving transmitting tracts, pollen tubes have to navigate across the ovule in the ovular cavity. Pollination of an embryo sac-less maize RNAi-line allowed the role of the female gametophyte for pollen tube guidance to be determined in maize. It was found that female gametophyte controlled guidance is restricted to a small region around the micropyle, approximately 50–100 μm in diameter. This area is comparable to the area of influence of previously described ZmEA1-based short-range female gametophyte signalling. In conclusion, the progamic phase is almost completely under sporophytic control in maize.
PMCID: PMC2814102  PMID: 19926683
Female gametophyte; maize; pollen tube guidance; prezygotic barriers; transmitting tract; Tripsacum
23.  Perspectives on deciphering mechanisms underlying plant heat stress response and thermotolerance 
Global warming is a major threat for agriculture and food safety and in many cases the negative effects are already apparent. The current challenge of basic and applied plant science is to decipher the molecular mechanisms of heat stress response (HSR) and thermotolerance in detail and use this information to identify genotypes that will withstand unfavorable environmental conditions. Nowadays X-omics approaches complement the findings of previous targeted studies and highlight the complexity of HSR mechanisms giving information for so far unrecognized genes, proteins and metabolites as potential key players of thermotolerance. Even more, roles of epigenetic mechanisms and the involvement of small RNAs in thermotolerance are currently emerging and thus open new directions of yet unexplored areas of plant HSR. In parallel it is emerging that although the whole plant is vulnerable to heat, specific organs are particularly sensitive to elevated temperatures. This has redirected research from the vegetative to generative tissues. The sexual reproduction phase is considered as the most sensitive to heat and specifically pollen exhibits the highest sensitivity and frequently an elevation of the temperature just a few degrees above the optimum during pollen development can have detrimental effects for crop production. Compared to our knowledge on HSR of vegetative tissues, the information on pollen is still scarce. Nowadays, several techniques for high-throughput X-omics approaches provide major tools to explore the principles of pollen HSR and thermotolerance mechanisms in specific genotypes. The collection of such information will provide an excellent support for improvement of breeding programs to facilitate the development of tolerant cultivars. The review aims at describing the current knowledge of thermotolerance mechanisms and the technical advances which will foster new insights into this process.
PMCID: PMC3750488  PMID: 23986766
thermotolerance; heat stress; pollen; transcriptomic; proteomic; metabolomic; epigenetic
24.  Pollen Tubes Enter Neighbouring Ovules by Way of Receptacle Tissue, Resulting in Increased Fruit‐set in Sagittaria potamogetifolia Merr. 
Annals of Botany  2002;89(6):791-796.
Using fluorescence microscopy, deposition of pollen on stigmas and pollen tube growth in the gynoecium of Sagittaria potamogetifolia Merr., a monoecious species with an apocarpous gynoecium, were observed. The maximum rate of pollination averaged 83·9 ± 4·7 %, and the number of pollen grains per stigma ranged from zero to 30. Pollen tubes grew through one stigma to the base of the ovary at almost the same speed, but generally only one of the pollen tubes then turned towards the ovule and finally entered the nucellus through the micropyle. The other pollen tubes grew through the ovary base and the receptacle tissue into ovules of adjacent carpels whose stigmas were not pollinated or which had been pollinated later. This phenomenon is termed pollen tube ‘reallocation’ by the authors. To verify the direct effect of the phenomenon on fruit set, artificial pollination experiments were conducted in which two or more pollen grains were placed onto only one stigma in each gynoecium; frequently more than one fruitlet was obtained from each flower treated. The reallocation of pollen tubes among pistils in the gynoecium could effect fertilization of ovules of unpollinated pistils and lead to an increase in sexual reproduction efficiency. It would, to some extent, also increase pollen tube competition among pistils of the whole gynoecium.
PMCID: PMC4233842  PMID: 12102535
Sagittaria potamogetifolia Merr.; pollination; pollen tube growth; fruit set; reproductive efficiency
25.  TURAN and EVAN Mediate Pollen Tube Reception in Arabidopsis Synergids through Protein Glycosylation 
PLoS Biology  2015;13(4):e1002139.
Pollen tube (PT) reception in flowering plants describes the crosstalk between the male and female gametophytes upon PT arrival at the synergid cells of the ovule. It leads to PT growth arrest, rupture, and sperm cell release, and is thus essential to ensure double fertilization. Here, we describe TURAN (TUN) and EVAN (EVN), two novel members of the PT reception pathway that is mediated by the FERONIA (FER) receptor-like kinase (RLK). Like fer, mutations in these two genes lead to PT overgrowth inside the female gametophyte (FG) without PT rupture. Mapping by next-generation sequencing, cytological analysis of reporter genes, and biochemical assays of glycoproteins in RNAi knockdown mutants revealed both genes to be involved in protein N-glycosylation in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). TUN encodes a uridine diphosphate (UDP)-glycosyltransferase superfamily protein and EVN a dolichol kinase. In addition to their common role during PT reception in the synergids, both genes have distinct functions in the pollen: whereas EVN is essential for pollen development, TUN is required for PT growth and integrity by affecting the stability of the pollen-specific FER homologs ANXUR1 (ANX1) and ANX2. ANX1- and ANX2-YFP reporters are not expressed in tun pollen grains, but ANX1-YFP is degraded via the ER-associated degradation (ERAD) pathway, likely underlying the anx1/2-like premature PT rupture phenotype of tun mutants. Thus, as in animal sperm–egg interactions, protein glycosylation is essential for the interaction between the female and male gametophytes during PT reception to ensure fertilization and successful reproduction.
Protein glycosylation is essential for gametophyte interactions between the male pollen tube and the female ovule in plants, reminiscent of gamete interactions during fertilization in mammals.
Author Summary
In flowering plants, gametes are produced by the haploid, multicellular male (pollen), and female (embryo sac) gametophytes, which develop within the reproductive organs of the flower. Successful fertilization depends on delivery of the sperm cells to the embryo sac, which is embedded in the ovule, by the pollen tube. Upon arrival of the pollen tube at the opening of the ovule, crosstalk between male and female gametophytes, known as pollen tube reception, ensues; the pollen tube slows or stops its growth, then resumes rapid growth, and finally bursts to release the sperm cells and effect double fertilization. Although several members of the pollen tube reception pathway, including the receptor-like kinase FERONIA, have been identified, the molecular mechanisms underlying this communication process remain unclear. Here, we show that protein N-glycosylation is required for normal pollen tube reception. A mutant screen identified two genes, TURAN and EVAN, which are involved in protein N-glycosylation in the endoplasmic reticulum. Both genes act in the FERONIA-mediated pollen tube reception pathway, which is impaired in these mutants. Thus, in plants, a “dual recognition system,” involving interactions between both protein and glycosyl residues on the surface of male and female gametophytes, appears to be required for successful pollen tube reception, conceptually similar to sperm–egg interactions in mammals, for which N-glycosylation of cell surface proteins also plays an important role.
PMCID: PMC4412406  PMID: 25919390

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