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.
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.
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.
Pollen; pistil; germination; stimulant; chemical biology; functional mimic
Background and Aims
During sexual reproduction in higher angiosperms, the pollen tubes are directed to the ovules in the pistil to deliver sperm cells. This pollen tube attraction is highly species specific, and a group of small secreted proteins, TfCRPs, are necessary for this process in Torenia fournieri.
A candidate pollen tube attractant protein in Torenia concolor, a related species of T. fournieri, was isolated and the attractant abilities between them were compared.
TcCRP1, an orthologous gene of TfCRP1 from T. concolor, is expressed predominantly in the synergid cell. The gene product attracted pollen tubes in a concentration-dependent manner, but attracted fewer pollen tubes from the other species.
The results indicated that this class of CRP proteins is a common pollen tube attractant in Torenia species. The sequence diversity of these proteins is important for species-specific pollen tube attraction.
Torenia fournieri; T. concolor; sexual reproduction; TcCRP1; fertilization; pollen tube guidance; synergid cell; defensin; cysteine-rich polypeptide; CRP; speciation
• 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.
Fagales; fertilization; micropyle; Myrica; Myricaceae; pollen-tube growth
With the use of stigmatic exudate or distilled water as carriers, various antimetabolites, inhibitors, and miscellaneous materials were injected into the hollow styles of detached Lilium longiflorum pistils before, at, or after compatible or incompatible pollination. Pollen tube lengths were measured 48 hr after pollination with pollinated styles incubated at 22-23 degrees C. Substances considered inhibitors of protein synthesis in microbial systems significantly retarded both compatible and incompatible pollen tube growth while inhibitors of RNA synthesis tended to significantly inhibit compatible pollen tube growth with less or no effect on incompatible pollen tubes. Application of the inhibitors in stigmatic exudate at or after compatible pollination produced significant results at the lowest concentrations. Significant retardation of pollen tube growth also occurred after injection of 2,4-dinitrophenol, mercaptoethanol, indoleacetic acid, naphthaleneacetic acid, benzyladenine, dimethyl sulfoxide, or potassium or sodium iodide. Pollen tube growth in detached pistils of L. longiflorum may be useful as a bioassay in situ for screening biologically active materials.
Self-incompatibility (SI) systems appeared early in plant evolution as an effective mechanism to promote outcrossing and avoid inbreeding depression. These systems prevent self-fertilization by the recognition and rejection of self-pollen and pollen from closely related individuals. The most widespread SI system is based on the action of a pistil ribonuclease, the S-RNase, which recognizes and rejects incompatible pollen. S-RNases are endocyted by pollen tubes and stored into vacuoles. By a mechanism that is still unknown, these vacuoles are selectively disrupted in incompatible pollen, releasing S-RNases into the cytoplasm and allowing degradation of pollen RNA. Recently, we have studied the timing of in vivo alterations of pollen F-actin cytoskeleton after incompatible pollinations. Besides being essential for pollen growth, F-actin cytoskeleton is a very dynamic cellular component. Changes in F-actin organization are known to be capable of transducing signaling events in many cellular processes. Early after pollination, F-actin showed a progressive disorganization in incompatible pollen tubes. However by the time the F-actin was almost completely disrupted, the large majority of vacuolar compartments were still intact. These results indicate that in incompatible pollen tubes F-actin disorganization precedes vacuolar disruption. They also suggest that F-actin may act as an early transducer of signals triggering the rejection of incompatible pollen.
F-actin; Nicotiana alata; self-incompatibility; signaling; S-RNase; pollen; vacuole
Higher plants produce seed through pollination, using specific interactions between pollen and pistil. Self-incompatibility (SI) is an important mechanism used in many species to prevent inbreeding, and is controlled by a multi-allelic S locus1,2. “Self” (incompatible) pollen is discriminated from “non-self” (compatible) pollen, by interaction of pollen and pistil S locus components, and is subsequently inhibited. In Papaver rhoeas, the pistil S locus product is a small protein that interacts with incompatible pollen, triggering a Ca2+-dependent signalling network, resulting in pollen inhibition and programmed cell death3-7. Here we have cloned three alleles of a highly polymorphic pollen-expressed gene, PrpS, from Papaver and provide evidence that this encodes the pollen S locus determinant. PrpS is a single copy gene linked to the pistil S gene, PrsS. Sequence analysis indicates that PrsS and PrpS are equally ancient and are likely to have co-evolved. PrpS encodes a novel ~20 kDa protein. Consistent with predictions that it is a transmembrane protein, PrpS is associated with the plasma membrane. We show that a predicted extracellular loop segment of PrpS interacts with PrsS and, using PrpS antisense oligonucleotides, we demonstrate that PrpS is involved in S-specific inhibition of incompatible pollen. Identification of PrpS represents a major advance in our understanding of the Papaver SI system. As a novel cell-cell recognition determinant it contributes to the available information concerning the origins and evolution of cell-cell recognition systems involved in discrimination between “self” and “non-self”, which also include histocompatibility systems in primitive chordates and vertebrates.
Self-incompatibility; pollen S receptor; Papaver rhoeas; pollen tube inhibition
Background and Aims
The stigma, a structure which serves as a site for pollen receipt and germination, has been assumed to have evolved once, as a modification of carpels, in early angiosperms. Here it is shown that a functional stigma has evolved secondarily from modified tepals in some Albuca species (Hyacinthaceae).
Deposition of pollen on Albuca floral organs by bees was recorded. Pollen germination and fruit set was measured in flowers that had pollen deposited solely on their tepals or had their tepal tips experimentally isolated or removed after pollination.
Leafcutter bees deposit pollen onto the papillate apices of the inner tepals of Albuca flowers. Pollen germinates in tepal-derived fluid secreted 2 or 3 d after anthesis and pollen tubes subsequently penetrate the style during flower wilting. Application of cross-pollen to the inner tepal apices of A. setosa flowers led to high fruit set. No fruits were produced in pollinated flowers in which the inner tepals were mechanically isolated or removed.
Pollen capture by tepals in the Albuca clade probably evolved in response to selection for floral morphology that maximizes the accuracy of pollen transfer. These findings show how pollination function can be transferred among floral organs, and shed light on how the original angiosperm stigma developed from sporophylls.
Hyacinthaceae; Ornithogaloideae; pollen; pollen germination; pollen receipt; pollen tube; pollination; sexual interference
The rich literature that characterizes the field of pollination biology has focused largely on animal-pollinated plants. At least 10 % of angiosperms are wind pollinated, and this mode of pollination has evolved on multiple occasions among unrelated lineages, and hence this discrepancy in research interest is surprising. Here, the evolution and functional ecology of pollination and mating in wind-pollinated plants are discussed, a theoretical framework for modelling the selection of wind pollination is outlined, and pollen capture and the occurrence of pollen limitation in diverse wind-pollinated herbs are investigated experimentally.
Scope and Conclusions
Wind pollination may commonly evolve to provide reproductive assurance when pollinators are scarce. Evidence is presented that pollen limitation in wind-pollinated plants may not be as common as it is in animal-pollinated species. The studies of pollen capture in wind-pollinated herbs demonstrate that pollen transfer efficiency is not substantially lower than in animal-pollinated plants as is often assumed. These findings challenge the explanation that the evolution of few ovules in wind-pollinated flowers is associated with low pollen loads. Floral and inflorescence architecture is crucial to pollination and mating because of the aerodynamics of wind pollination. Evidence is provided for the importance of plant height, floral position, and stamen and stigma characteristics in promoting effective pollen dispersal and capture. Finally, it is proposed that geitonogamous selfing may alleviate pollen limitation in many wind-pollinated plants with unisexual flowers.
Wind pollination; reproductive assurance; pollen limitation; geitonogamy; sex allocation; inflorescence architecture; mating systems
Many angiosperms use specific interactions between pollen and pistil proteins as “self” recognition and/or rejection mechanisms to prevent self-fertilization. Self-incompatibility (SI) is encoded by a multiallelic S locus, comprising pollen and pistil S-determinants [1, 2]. In Papaver rhoeas, cognate pistil and pollen S-determinants, PrpS, a pollen-expressed transmembrane protein, and PrsS, a pistil-expressed secreted protein [3, 4], interact to trigger a Ca2+-dependent signaling network [5–10], resulting in inhibition of pollen tube growth, cytoskeletal alterations [11–13], and programmed cell death (PCD) [14, 15] in incompatible pollen. We introduced the PrpS gene into Arabidopsis thaliana, a self-compatible model plant. Exposing transgenic A. thaliana pollen to recombinant Papaver PrsS protein triggered remarkably similar responses to those observed in incompatible Papaver pollen: S-specific inhibition and hallmark features of Papaver SI [11–15]. Our findings demonstrate that Papaver PrpS is functional in a species with no SI system that diverged ∼140 million years ago . This suggests that the Papaver SI system uses cellular targets that are, perhaps, common to all eudicots and that endogenous signaling components can be recruited to elicit a response that most likely never operated in this species. This will be of interest to biologists interested in the evolution of signaling networks in higher plants.
► PrpS, a Papaver SI determinant, functions in Arabidopsis thaliana pollen ► A “self” interaction with PrsS reveals Papaver SI hallmark features in A. thaliana ► The first evidence for transfamily functionality of an SI system (>140 my apart) ► Evidence of recruitment of signaling components for novel SI function
Reproductive development in sexual plants is substantially more sensitive to high temperature stress than vegetative development, resulting in negative implications for food and fiber production under the moderate temperature increases projected to result from global climate change. High temperature exposure either during early pollen development or during the progamic phase of pollen development will negatively impact pollen performance and reproductive output; both phases of pollen development are considered exceptionally sensitive to moderate heat stress. However, moderately elevated temperatures either before or during the progamic phase can limit fertilization by negatively impacting important pollen pistil interactions required for successful pollen tube growth toward the ovules. This mini-review identifies the impacts of heat stress on pollen-pistil interactions and sexual reproduction in angiosperms. A special emphasis is placed on the biochemical response of the pistil to moderately high temperature and the resultant influence on in vivo pollen performance and fertilization.
pollen-pistil interaction; carbohydrates; heat stress; fertilization; pollen tube growth; climate change
Elongation of pollen tubes in pistils after self-pollination of Lilium longiflorum cv. Hinomoto exhibiting strong gametophytic self-incompatibility was promoted by cAMP and also promoted by some metabolic modulators, namely, activators (forskolin and cholera toxin) of adenylate cyclase and inhibitors (3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine and pertussis) of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase. Moreover, the elongation was promoted by acetylcholine (ACh) and other choline derivatives, such as acetylthiocholine, L-α-phosphatidylcholine and chlorocholinechloride [CCC; (2-chloroethyl) trimethyl ammonium chloride]. A potent inhibitor (neostigmine) of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) as well as acetylcholine also promoted the elongation. cAMP enhanced choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity and suppressed AChE activity in the pistils, suggesting that the results are closely correlated with self-incompatibility in L. longiflorum. In short, it came to light that cAMP modulates ChAT (acetylcholine-forming enzyme) and AChE (acetylchoine-decomposing enzyme) activities to enhance the level of ACh in the pistils of L. logiflorum after self-incompatible pollination. These results indicate that the self-incompatibility on self-pollination is caused by low levels of ACh and/or cAMP.
pollen tubes; self-incompatibility; Lilium longiflorum; cAMP; acetylcholie; AChE; ChAT
Background and Aims
Pollen-collecting bees are among the most important pollinators globally, but are also the most common pollen thieves and can significantly reduce plant reproduction. The pollination efficiency of pollen collectors depends on the frequency of their visits to female(-phase) flowers, contact with stigmas and deposition of pollen of sufficient quantity and quality to fertilize ovules. Here we investigate the relative importance of these components, and the hypothesis that floral and inflorescence characteristics mediate the pollination role of pollen collection by bees.
For ten Aloe species that differ extensively in floral and inflorescence traits, we experimentally excluded potential bird pollinators to quantify the contributions of insect visitors to pollen removal, pollen deposition and seed production. We measured corolla width and depth to determine nectar accessibility, and the phenology of anther dehiscence and stigma receptivity to quantify herkogamy and dichogamy. Further, we compiled all published bird-exclusion studies of aloes, and compared insect pollination success with floral morphology.
Species varied from exclusively insect pollinated, to exclusively bird pollinated but subject to extensive pollen theft by insects. Nectar inaccessibility and strong dichogamy inhibited pollination by pollen-collecting bees by discouraging visits to female-phase (i.e. pollenless) flowers. For species with large inflorescences of pollen-rich flowers, pollen collectors successfully deposited pollen, but of such low quality (probably self-pollen) that they made almost no contribution to seed set. Indeed, considering all published bird-exclusion studies (17 species in total), insect pollination efficiency varied significantly with floral shape.
Species-specific floral and inflorescence characteristics, especially nectar accessibility and dichogamy, control the efficiency of pollen-collecting bees as pollinators of aloes.
Pollen theft; pollination efficiency; dichogamy; floral morphology; Aloe; Alooideae; Xanthorrhoeaceae; Asphodeloideae
In plants, pollination is a critical step in reproduction. During pollination, constant communication between male pollen and the female stigma is required for pollen adhesion, germination, and tube growth. The detailed mechanisms of stigma-mediated reproductive processes, however, remain largely unknown. Maize (Zea mays L.), one of the world’s most important crops, has been extensively used as a model species to study molecular mechanisms of pollen and stigma interaction. A comprehensive analysis of maize silk transcriptome may provide valuable information for investigating stigma functionality. A comparative analysis of expression profiles between maize silk and dry stigmas of other species might reveal conserved and diverse mechanisms that underlie stigma-mediated reproductive processes in various plant species.
Transcript abundance profiles of mature silk, mature pollen, mature ovary, and seedling were investigated using RNA-seq. By comparing the transcriptomes of these tissues, we identified 1,427 genes specifically or preferentially expressed in maize silk. Bioinformatic analyses of these genes revealed many genes with known functions in plant reproduction as well as novel candidate genes that encode amino acid transporters, peptide and oligopeptide transporters, and cysteine-rich receptor-like kinases. In addition, comparison of gene sets specifically or preferentially expressed in stigmas of maize, rice (Oryza sativa L.), and Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana [L.] Heynh.) identified a number of homologous genes involved either in pollen adhesion, hydration, and germination or in initial growth and penetration of pollen tubes into the stigma surface. The comparison also indicated that maize shares a more similar profile and larger number of conserved genes with rice than with Arabidopsis, and that amino acid and lipid transport-related genes are distinctively overrepresented in maize.
Many of the novel genes uncovered in this study are potentially involved in stigma-mediated reproductive processes, including genes encoding amino acid transporters, peptide and oligopeptide transporters, and cysteine-rich receptor-like kinases. The data also suggest that dry stigmas share similar mechanisms at early stages of pollen-stigma interaction. Compared with Arabidopsis, maize and rice appear to have more conserved functional mechanisms. Genes involved in amino acid and lipid transport may be responsible for mechanisms in the reproductive process that are unique to maize silk.
Background and Aims
An intense pollen–pistil interaction precedes fertilization. This interaction is of particular relevance in agronomically important species where seeds or fruits are the edible part. Over time some agronomically species have been selected for the ability to produce fruit without seeds. While this phenomenon is critical for commercial production in some species, very little is known about the events behind the production of seedless fruit. In this work, the relationship between pollen–pistil interaction and the onset of fruiting was investigated in citrus mandarin.
Pistils were sequentially examined in hand-pollinated flowers paying attention to pollen-tube behaviour, and to cytochemical changes along the pollen-tube pathway. To evaluate which of these changes were induced by pollination/fertilization and which were developmentally regulated, pollinated and unpollinated pistils were compared. Also the onset of fruiting was timed and changes in the ovary examined.
Conspicuous changes occurred in the pistil along the pollen-tube pathway, which took place in a basipetal way encompassing the timing of pollen-tube growth. However, these changes appear to be developmentally regulated as they happened in the same way and at the same time in unpollinated flowers. Moreover, the onset of fruiting occurred prior to fertilization and the very same changes could be observed in unpollinated flowers.
Pollen–pistil interaction in citrus showed similarities with unrelated species and families belonging to other taxa. The uncoupling of the reproductive and fruiting processes accounts for the parthenocarpic ability of unpollinated flowers to produce fruit in citrus. However, the maintenance of a functional reproductive process reflects the potential to produce seeded fruits, providing a basis for the understanding of the production of seeded or unseeded fruits and further understanding of the process of parthenocarpy in other species.
Citrus; flower development; mandarin; obturator; ovary; papillae; parthenocarpy; pistil; pollen-tube competition; seedlessness; stigma; stylar canal
Self-incompatibility enables plants to avoid inbreeding by self-pollination. Here we report that the genetic locus encoding self-pollen recognition has evolved twice in the Brassicaceae family, challenging the notion that loss of self-incompatibility is irreversible.
Self-incompatibility (SI) is the flowering plant reproductive system in which self pollen tube growth is inhibited, thereby preventing self-fertilization. SI has evolved independently in several different flowering plant lineages. In all Brassicaceae species in which the molecular basis of SI has been investigated in detail, the product of the S-locus receptor kinase (SRK) gene functions as receptor in the initial step of the self pollen-rejection pathway, while that of the S-locus cysteine-rich (SCR) gene functions as ligand. Here we examine the hypothesis that the S locus in the Brassicaceae genus Leavenworthia is paralogous with the S locus previously characterized in other members of the family. We also test the hypothesis that self-compatibility in this group is based on disruption of the pollen ligand-producing gene. Sequence analysis of the S-locus genes in Leavenworthia, phylogeny of S alleles, gene expression patterns, and comparative genomics analyses provide support for both hypotheses. Of special interest are two genes located in a non-S locus genomic region of Arabidopsis lyrata that exhibit domain structures, sequences, and phylogenetic histories similar to those of the S-locus genes in Leavenworthia, and that also share synteny with these genes. These A. lyrata genes resemble those comprising the A. lyrata S locus, but they do not function in self-recognition. Moreover, they appear to belong to a lineage that diverged from the ancestral Brassicaceae S-locus genes before allelic diversification at the S locus. We hypothesize that there has been neo-functionalization of these S-locus-like genes in the Leavenworthia lineage, resulting in evolution of a separate ligand-receptor system of SI. Our results also provide support for theoretical models that predict that the least constrained pathway to the evolution of self-compatibility is one involving loss of pollen gene function.
Self-incompatibility (SI) is a pollen recognition system that enables plants to avoid the inbreeding caused by self-pollination. It involves a pair of tightly linked genes known as the S locus. The product of one of these genes acts as the receptor and recognizes the pollen protein produced by the same plant, while the product of the other gene is the pollen protein that is recognized by the receptor. In this study, we have analyzed the gene sequence, genome organization, and gene evolutionary history of S loci in members of the Brassicaceae family, which includes plants of the genus Leavenworthia. From our analyses, we conclude that both genes that comprise the ancestral S locus in the Brassicaceae were lost in Leavenworthia. We show, however, that plants of this genus possess two other linked genes that exhibit patterns of polymorphism and expression that are characteristic of an S locus. These genes occupy the same genomic position in Leavenworthia as do two non-S-locus genes in the related species Arabidopsis lyrata, genes that are not known to function in self-recognition in this species. We suggest that these genes have evolved to assume the function of the pollen recognition system of SI in Leavenworthia—that is, that there has been de novo emergence of a distinct Brassicaceae S locus in this genus. We also present evidence that the breakdown of the SI system in two Leavenworthia races is due to independent mutations in the S-locus pollen gene, in accordance with theoretical predictions for the spread of S-locus disrupting mutations.
Two sperm cells are required to achieve double fertilization in flowering plants (angiosperms). In contrast to animals and lower plants such as mosses and ferns, sperm cells of flowering plants (angiosperms) are immobile and are transported to the female gametes (egg and central cell) via the pollen tube. The two sperm cells arise from the generative pollen cell either within the pollen grain or after germination inside the pollen tube. While pollen tube growth and sperm behavior has been intensively investigated in model plant species such as tobacco and lily, little is know about sperm dynamics and behavior during pollen germination, tube growth and sperm release in grasses. In the March issue of Journal of Experimental Botany, we have reported about the sporophytic and gametophytic control of pollen tube germination, growth and guidance in maize.1 Five progamic phases were distinguished involving various prezygotic crossing barriers before sperm cell delivery inside the female gametophyte takes place. Using live cell imaging and a generative cell-specific promoter driving α-tubulin-YFP expression in the male germline, we report here the formation of the male germline inside the pollen grain and the sperm behaviour during pollen germination and their movement dynamics during tube growth in maize.
male gametophyte; generative cell; sperm; pollen tube; tubulin; fertilization; maize
AtLURE1 defensin-like peptides, which show species-specific evolution, are essential in Arabidopsis for attracting pollen tubes and can function in the breakdown of reproductive isolation barriers.
Genes directly involved in male/female and host/parasite interactions are believed to be under positive selection. The flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana has more than 300 defensin-like (DEFL) genes, which are likely to be involved in both natural immunity and cell-to-cell communication including pollen–pistil interactions. However, little is known of the relationship between the molecular evolution of DEFL genes and their functions. Here, we identified a recently evolved cluster of DEFL genes in A. thaliana and demonstrated that these DEFL (cysteine-rich peptide [CRP810_1]) peptides, named AtLURE1 peptides, are pollen tube attractants guiding pollen tubes to the ovular micropyle. The AtLURE1 genes formed the sole species-specific cluster among DEFL genes compared to its close relative, A. lyrata. No evidence for positive selection was detected in AtLURE1 genes and their orthologs, implying neutral evolution of AtLURE1 genes. AtLURE1 peptides were specifically expressed in egg-accompanying synergid cells and secreted toward the funicular surface through the micropyle. Genetic analyses showed that gametophytic mutants defective in micropylar guidance (myb98, magatama3, and central cell guidance) do not express AtLURE1 peptides. Downregulation of the expression of these peptides impaired precise pollen tube attraction to the micropylar opening of some populations of ovules. Recombinant AtLURE1 peptides attracted A. thaliana pollen tubes at a higher frequency compared to A. lyrata pollen tubes, suggesting that these peptides are species-preferential attractants in micropylar guidance. In support of this idea, the heterologous expression of a single AtLURE1 peptide in the synergid cell of Torenia fournieri was sufficient to guide A. thaliana pollen tubes to the T. fournieri embryo sac and to permit entry into it. Our results suggest the unique evolution of AtLURE1 genes, which are directly involved in male–female interaction among the DEFL multigene family, and furthermore suggest that these peptides are sufficient to overcome interspecific barriers in gametophytic attraction and penetration.
Defensin-like (DEFL) peptides commonly function as effector peptides and are involved in male-female and host-parasite interactions in eukaryotes. In higher plants, DEFL genes belong to a large multigene family and are highly variable between species. However, little is known about the relationship between the molecular evolution of DEFL genes and their functions. By comparing multiply duplicated DEFL genes between A. thaliana and its close relative A. lyrata, we have now identified pollen tube attractant peptides called AtLURE1 peptides, in A. thaliana. We find that AtLURE1 genes form a species-specific gene cluster and that the AtLURE1 peptides these genes encode are specifically expressed in the synergid (egg-accompanying) cells and are secreted along the path down which the pollen tube elongates to reach the female gametophyte. AtLURE1 peptides attract pollen tubes in a species-preferential manner and their downregulation impairs pollen tube guidance. Interestingly, the genetic introduction of a single AtLURE1 gene from A. thaliana into another plant, T. fournieri, is sufficient to breakdown reproductive isolation barriers in pollen tube guidance and penetration. These results suggest that AtLURE1 peptides, which show species-specific evolution, are key molecules that attract pollen tubes from a plant's own species to the embryo sac to enable successful reproduction.
Background and Aims
The probability that seeds will be fertilized from self- versus cross-pollen depends strongly on whether plants have self-incompatibility systems, and how these systems influence the fate of pollen tubes.
In this study of breeding systems in Eucalyptus urophylla and Eucalyptus grandis, epifluorescence microscopy was used to study pollen tube growth in styles following self- and cross-pollinations.
Pollen tubes from self-pollen took significantly longer than those from cross-pollen to grow to the base of the style in both E. urophylla (120 h vs. 96 h) and E. grandis (96 h vs. 72 h). In addition, both species exhibited reduced seed yields following self-pollination compared with cross-pollination.
The present observations suggest that, in addition to a late-acting self-incompatibility barrier, cryptic self-incompatibility could be a mechanism responsible for the preferential out-crossing system in these two eucalypt species.
Eucalyptus urophylla; Eucalyptus grandis; epifluorescence microscopy; cryptic self-incompatibility
Management of small plant populations requires an understanding of their reproductive ecology, particularly in terms of sensitivity to Allee effects. To address this issue, we explored how components of pollen transfer and pollination success of individual plants varied among 36 populations of the self-compatible moth-pollinated orchid Satyrium longicauda in South Africa. Mean fruit set, seed production, proportion of flowers with pollen deposited or removed and proportion of removed pollen that reached stigmas (approx. 8% in this species) were not significantly related to population size (range: 1–450 flowering individuals), density or isolation. Plants in small populations did, however, have significantly higher levels of pollinator-mediated self-pollination (determined using colour-labelled pollen) than those in larger populations. Our results suggest that small populations of this orchid species are resilient to Allee effects in terms of overall pollination success, although the higher levels of pollinator-mediated self-pollination in small populations may lead to inbreeding depression and long-term erosion of genetic diversity.
Allee effects; pollen transfer efficiency; pollination; population ecology; Satyrium; self-pollination
Lily stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA), a plant lipid transfer protein (LTP) which is secreted into the extracellular matrix, functions in pollen tube guidance in fertilization. A gain-of-function mutant (ltp5-1) for Arabidopsis LTP5, an SCA-like molecule, was recently shown to display defects in sexual reproduction. In the current study, it is reported that ltp5-1 plants have dwarfed primary shoots, delayed hypocotyl elongation, various abnormal tissue fusions, and display multibranching. These mutant phenotypes in vegetative growth are recessive. No abnormality was found in ltp5-1/+ plants. In a phylogenetic analysis of plant LTPs, SCA-like Arabidopsis LTPs were classified with conventional plant LTPs. Homology modelling-based electrostatic similarity index (ESI) clustering was used to show diversity in spatial distributions of electrostatic potentials of SCA-like LTPs, suggestive of their various roles in interaction in the extracellular matrix space. β-Glucuronidase (GUS) analysis showed that SCA-like Arabidopsis LTP genes are diversely present in various tissues. LTP4 was found specifically in the guard cells and LTP6 in trichomes as well as in other tissues. LTP1 levels were specifically abundant in the stigma, and both LTP3 and LTP6 in the ovules. LTP2 and LTP4 gene levels were up-regulated in whole seedlings with 20% polyethylene glycol (PEG) and 300 mM NaCl treatments, respectively. LTP5 was up-regulated in the hypocotyl with 3 d dark growth conditions. LTP6 was specifically expressed in the tip of the cotyledon under drought stress conditions. The results suggest that SCA-like Arabidopsis LTPs are multifunctional, with diversified roles in plant growth and reproduction.
Arabidopsis thaliana; electrostatics; extracellular matrix (ECM); lipid transfer protein (LTP); small secreted peptide; stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA)
Background and Aims
Trithuria, the sole genus in the family Hydatellaceae, is an important group for understanding early angiosperm evolution because of its sister relationship to the ancient lineage, Nymphaeales (water lilies). Although also aquatic, Trithuria differs from water lilies in that all species are extremely small, and most have an annual life form and grow in seasonal wetlands. Very little is known about their reproductive ecology. This paper reports on reproductive timing, mode of pollination and characteristics of the breeding system of Trithuria submersa in Western Australia.
Mass collections of open-pollinated plants from different ecological settings were used to characterize the reproductive developmental sequence and natural pollen reception. Hand-pollination, caging and emasculation experiments were used to measure outcross + geitonogamous pollen reception versus autonomous self-pollination in two populations over two field seasons.
Natural outcross or geitonogamous pollination was by wind, not by water or insects, but pollen reception was extremely low. Pollen production was very low and pollen release was non-synchronous within populations. The pollen to ovule (P/O) ratio was 23·9, compared with 1569·1 in dioecious Trithuria austinensis. Stigmas became receptive before male phase and remained so until anthers dehisced and autonomous self-pollination occurred. Natural pollen loads are composed primarily of self pollen. Self- and open-pollinated plants had equivalent seed set (both >70 %). Self-pollinated plants produced seed within 17 d.
Autonomous self-pollination and self-fertilization are predominant in T. submersa. The low P/O ratio is not an artefact of small plant size and is inconsistent with long-term pollination by wind. It indicates that T. submersa has evolved a primarily autogamous breeding system. Selfing, along with the effect of small plant size on the speed of reproduction, has enabled T. submersa to colonize marginal ephemeral wetlands in the face of unpredictable pollination.
Autogamy; basal angiosperm; delayed self-pollination; Hydatellaceae; Nymphaeales; wind pollination; reproductive assurance; reproductive timing; stigma receptivity; Trithuria submersa
The ultimate importance of postpollination sexual selection has remained elusive, largely because of the difficulty of assigning paternity in the field. Here I use a powerful new molecular marker (AFLP) for paternity analysis in a natural population of the outcrossing angiosperm Persoonia mollis (Proteaceae) to assess male reproductive success following equal pollination of 15 pollen donors on each of 6310 pistils. These results were contrasted with male reproductive success of these same plants following natural mating. Following equal pollination, there was a significant departure from equal siring success, indicating a potential for postpollination sexual selection. The most successful pollen donor sired more than twice the expected number of seeds, and this was largely consistent across recipient plants. However, siring success following natural mating was significantly different from siring success following artificial pollination and showed that the reproductive gains to be made from superior pollen performance did not translate into increased reproductive success following natural mating. As the ecological context for post-pollination sexual selection is strong in P. mollis, I suggest that pollen competition may ultimately have only a weak effect on non-random male mating success under natural conditions because the realized opportunities for pollen competition within pistils are limited.
Intraspecific mate selectivity often is enforced by self-incompatibility (SI), a barrier to self-pollination that inhibits productive pollen-pistil interactions. In the Brassicaceae, SI specificity is determined by two highly-polymorphic proteins: the stigmatic S-locus receptor kinase (SRK) and its pollen coat-localized ligand, the S-locus cysteine-rich protein (SCR). Arabidopsis thaliana is self fertile, but several of its accessions can be made to express SI, albeit to various degrees, by transformation with functional SRK-SCR gene pairs isolated from its close self-incompatible relative, Arabidopsis lyrata. Here, we use a newly identified induced mutation that suppresses the SI phenotype in stigmas of SRK-SCR transformants of the Col-0 accession to investigate the regulation of SI and the SRK transgene. This mutation disrupts NRPD1a, a gene that encodes a plant-specific nuclear RNA polymerase required for genomic methylation and production of some types of silencing RNAs. We show that NRPD1a, along with the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase RDR2, is required for SI in some A. thaliana accessions. We also show that Col-0 nrpd1a mutants exhibit decreased accumulation of SRK transcripts in stigmas, which is not, however, responsible for loss of SI in these plants. Together, our analysis of the nrpd1a mutation and of SRK promoter activity in various accessions reveals that the SRK transgene is subject to several levels of regulation, which vary substantially by tissue type and by accession. This study thus helps explain the well-documented differences in expression of SI exhibited by SRK-SCR transformants of different A. thaliana accessions.
self-incompatibility; S-locus receptor kinase; NRPD1a; Arabidopsis thaliana
Background and Aims
Animal pollination is typically an uncertain process that interacts with self-incompatibility status to determine reproductive success. Seed set is often pollen-limited, but species with late-acting self-incompatibility (SI) may be particularly vulnerable, if self-pollen deposition results in ovule discounting. Pollination is examined and the occurrence of late-acting SI and ovule discounting assessed in Cyrtanthus breviflorus.
The pollination system was characterized by observing floral visitors and assessing nectar production and spectral reflectance of flowers. To assess late-acting SI and ovule discounting, growth of self- and cross-pollen tubes, and seed set following open pollination or hand pollination with varying proportions of self- and cross-pollen, were examined.
Native honeybees Apis mellifera scutellata pollinated flowers as they actively collected pollen. Most flowers (≥70 %) did not contain nectar, while the rest produced minute volumes of dilute nectar. The flowers which are yellow to humans are visually conspicuous to bees with a strong contrast between UV-reflecting tepals and UV-absorbing anthers and pollen. Plants were self-incompatible, but self-rejection was late-acting and both self- and cross-pollen tubes penetrated ovules. Seed set of open-pollinated flowers was pollen-limited, despite pollen deposition exceeding ovule number by 6-fold. Open-pollinated seed set was similar to that of the cross + self-pollen treatment, but was less than that of the cross-pollen-only treatment.
Flowers of C. breviflorus are pollinated primarily by pollen-collecting bees and possess a late-acting SI system, previously unknown in this clade of the Amaryllidaceae. Pollinators of C. breviflorus deposit mixtures of cross- and self-pollen and, because SI is late-acting, self-pollen disables ovules, reducing female fertility. This study thus contributes to growing evidence that seed production in plants with late-acting SI systems is frequently limited by pollen quality, even when pollinators are abundant.
Amarydillaceae; Cyrtanthus breviflorus; honeybee pollination; late-acting self-incompatibility; ovule discounting; pollen limitation; pollen quantity and quality