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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.  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
3.  A multifaceted study of stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA)-like Arabidopsis lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) suggests diversified roles for these LTPs in plant growth and reproduction 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;61(15):4277-4290.
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.
PMCID: PMC2955742  PMID: 20667964
Arabidopsis thaliana; electrostatics; extracellular matrix (ECM); lipid transfer protein (LTP); small secreted peptide; stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA)
4.  Transcriptional Evidence for Inferred Pattern of Pollen Tube-Stigma Metabolic Coupling during Pollination 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107046.
It is difficult to derive all qualitative proteomic and metabolomic experimental data in male (pollen tube) and female (pistil) reproductive tissues during pollination because of the limited sensitivity of current technology. In this study, genome-scale enzyme correlation network models for plants (Arabidopsis/maize) were constructed by analyzing the enzymes and metabolic routes from a global perspective. Then, we developed a data-driven computational pipeline using the “guilt by association” principle to analyze the transcriptional coexpression profiles of enzymatic genes in the consecutive steps for metabolic routes in the fast-growing pollen tube and stigma during pollination. The analysis identified an inferred pattern of pollen tube-stigma ethanol coupling. When the pollen tube elongates in the transmitting tissue (TT) of the pistil, this elongation triggers the mobilization of energy from glycolysis in the TT cells of the pistil. Energy-rich metabolites (ethanol) are secreted that can be taken up by the pollen tube, where these metabolites are incorporated into the pollen tube's tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, which leads to enhanced ATP production for facilitating pollen tube growth. In addition, our analysis also provided evidence for the cooperation of kaempferol, dTDP-alpha-L-rhamnose and cell-wall-related proteins; phosphatidic-acid-mediated Ca2+ oscillations and cytoskeleton; and glutamate degradation IV for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling activation in Arabidopsis and maize stigmas to provide the signals and materials required for pollen tube tip growth. In particular, the “guilt by association” computational pipeline and the genome-scale enzyme correlation network models (GECN) developed in this study was initiated with experimental “omics” data, followed by data analysis and data integration to determine correlations, and could provide a new platform to assist inachieving a deeper understanding of the co-regulation and inter-regulation model in plant research.
PMCID: PMC4162560  PMID: 25215523
5.  Effects of Self-, Chase and Mixed Self/Cross-pollinations on Pistil Longevity and Fruit Set in Ceiba Species (Bombacaceae) with Late-acting Self-incompatibility 
Annals of Botany  2004;94(2):305-310.
• Background and aims Late-acting self-incompatibility (LSI), in which selfed flowers fail to form fruits despite apparently successful growth of the pollen tubes to the ovules, is a contentious and still poorly understood phenomenon. Some studies have indicated pollen tube–pistil interactions, and major gene control. Others favour an early acting inbreeding depression explanation.
• Methods Experimental pollinations, including selfs (in a subsample of which the style was cut before pollen tubes reached the ovary), chase self/cross-pollinations, crosses, and mixed self/cross-pollinations were used to study floral/pistil longevity and effect on fruit set and seed yield in two Ceiba species known to have LSI.
• Results Self-pollinations, including those with a cut style, had extended floral longevity compared with unpollinated flowers. Chase pollinations in which cross-pollen was applied up to 3 h after selfing set fruits, but with reduced seed set compared with crosses. Those with cross-pollen applied at 4 and 8 h after self-pollination all failed to set fruits. Flowers subjected to 1 : 1 and 2 : 1 self/cross-pollinations all produced fruits but again with a significantly lower seed set compared with crosses.
• Conclusions Extended floral longevity initiated with self-pollen tubes growing in the style indicates some kind of pollen tube–pistil interaction. Fruit set only in chase pollinations up to 3 h implies that self-pollen tubes either grow more slowly in the style or penetrate ovules more slowly on arrival at the ovary compared with cross-tubes. This agrees with previous observations indicating that the incidence of penetrated ovules is initially lower in selfed compared with crossed pistils. However, the low seed yield from mixed pollinations indicates that self- and cross-pollen tubes arrive at the ovary and penetrate ovules more or less simultaneously. Possible explanations for these discordant results are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4242166  PMID: 15238350
Self-pollination; chase pollination; cross-pollination; pistil longevity; fruit set; Ceiba; self-incompatibility
6.  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
7.  Pollination and late-acting self-incompatibility in Cyrtanthus breviflorus (Amaryllidaceae): implications for seed production 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(4):547-555.
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.
Key Results
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.
PMCID: PMC2944973  PMID: 20647225
Amarydillaceae; Cyrtanthus breviflorus; honeybee pollination; late-acting self-incompatibility; ovule discounting; pollen limitation; pollen quantity and quality
8.  Proteomics profiling reveals novel proteins and functions of the plant stigma exudate 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(18):5695-5705.
Proteomic analysis of the stigmatic exudate of Lilium longiflorum and Olea europaea led to the identification of 51 and 57 proteins, respectively, most of which are described for the first time in this secreted fluid. These results indicate that the stigmatic exudate is an extracellular environment metabolically active, participating in at least 80 different biological processes and 97 molecular functions. The stigma exudate showed a markedly catabolic profile and appeared to possess the enzyme machinery necessary to degrade large polysaccharides and lipids secreted by papillae to smaller units, allowing their incorporation into the pollen tube during pollination. It may also regulate pollen-tube growth in the pistil through the selective degradation of tube-wall components. Furthermore, some secreted proteins were involved in pollen-tube adhesion and orientation, as well as in programmed cell death of the papillae cells in response to either compatible pollination or incompatible pollen rejection. Finally, the results also revealed a putative cross-talk between genetic programmes regulating stress/defence and pollination responses in the stigma.
PMCID: PMC3871823  PMID: 24151302
Eastern lily; exudate; olive; proteomics; stigma; secretome.
9.  Electrophoretic profiling and immunocytochemical detection of pectins and arabinogalactan proteins in olive pollen during germination and pollen tube growth 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(3):503-513.
Background and Aims
Cell wall pectins and arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs) are important for pollen tube growth. The aim of this work was to study the temporal and spatial dynamics of these compounds in olive pollen during germination.
Immunoblot profiling analyses combined with confocal and transmission electron microscopy immunocytochemical detection techniques were carried out using four anti-pectin (JIM7, JIM5, LM5 and LM6) and two anti-AGP (JIM13 and JIM14) monoclonal antibodies.
Key Results
Pectin and AGP levels increased during olive pollen in vitro germination. (1 → 4)-β-d-Galactans localized in the cytoplasm of the vegetative cell, the pollen wall and the apertural intine. After the pollen tube emerged, galactans localized in the pollen tube wall, particularly at the tip, and formed a collar-like structure around the germinative aperture. (1 → 5)-α-l-Arabinans were mainly present in the pollen tube cell wall, forming characteristic ring-shaped deposits at regular intervals in the sub-apical zone. As expected, the pollen tube wall was rich in highly esterified pectic compounds at the apex, while the cell wall mainly contained de-esterified pectins in the shank. The wall of the generative cell was specifically labelled with arabinans, highly methyl-esterified homogalacturonans and JIM13 epitopes. In addition, the extracellular material that coated the outer exine layer was rich in arabinans, de-esterified pectins and JIM13 epitopes.
Pectins and AGPs are newly synthesized in the pollen tube during pollen germination. The synthesis and secretion of these compounds are temporally and spatially regulated. Galactans might provide mechanical stability to the pollen tube, reinforcing those regions that are particularly sensitive to tension stress (the pollen tube–pollen grain joint site) and mechanical damage (the tip). Arabinans and AGPs might be important in recognition and adhesion phenomena of the pollen tube and the stylar transmitting cells, as well as the egg and sperm cells.
PMCID: PMC3718210  PMID: 23712452
arabinogalactan protein; cell wall; Olea europaea; pectin; pollen; pollen tube
10.  Defensin-Like ZmES4 Mediates Pollen Tube Burst in Maize via Opening of the Potassium Channel KZM1 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(6):e1000388.
Species-preferential osmotic pollen tube burst and sperm discharge in maize involve induced opening of the pollen tube-expressed potassium channel KZM1 by the egg apparatus-derived defensin-like protein ZmES4.
In contrast to animals and lower plant species, sperm cells of flowering plants are non-motile and are transported to the female gametes via the pollen tube, i.e. the male gametophyte. Upon arrival at the female gametophyte two sperm cells are discharged into the receptive synergid cell to execute double fertilization. The first players involved in inter-gametophyte signaling to attract pollen tubes and to arrest their growth have been recently identified. In contrast the physiological mechanisms leading to pollen tube burst and thus sperm discharge remained elusive. Here, we describe the role of polymorphic defensin-like cysteine-rich proteins ZmES1-4 (Zea mays embryo sac) from maize, leading to pollen tube growth arrest, burst, and explosive sperm release. ZmES1-4 genes are exclusively expressed in the cells of the female gametophyte. ZmES4-GFP fusion proteins accumulate in vesicles at the secretory zone of mature synergid cells and are released during the fertilization process. Using RNAi knock-down and synthetic ZmES4 proteins, we found that ZmES4 induces pollen tube burst in a species-preferential manner. Pollen tube plasma membrane depolarization, which occurs immediately after ZmES4 application, as well as channel blocker experiments point to a role of K+-influx in the pollen tube rupture mechanism. Finally, we discovered the intrinsic rectifying K+ channel KZM1 as a direct target of ZmES4. Following ZmES4 application, KZM1 opens at physiological membrane potentials and closes after wash-out. In conclusion, we suggest that vesicles containing ZmES4 are released from the synergid cells upon male-female gametophyte signaling. Subsequent interaction between ZmES4 and KZM1 results in channel opening and K+ influx. We further suggest that K+ influx leads to water uptake and culminates in osmotic tube burst. The species-preferential activity of polymorphic ZmES4 indicates that the mechanism described represents a pre-zygotic hybridization barrier and may be a component of reproductive isolation in plants.
Author Summary
Sperm cells of animals and lower plants are mobile and can swim to the oocyte or egg cell. In contrast, flowering plants generate immobile sperm encased in a pollen coat to protect them from drying out and are transported via the pollen tube cell towards the egg apparatus to achieve double fertilization. Upon arrival the pollen tube tip bursts to deliver two sperm cells, one fusing with the egg cell to generate the embryo and the other fusing with the central cell to generate the endosperm. Here, we report the mechanisms leading to pollen tube burst and sperm discharge in maize. We found that before fertilization the defensin-like protein ZmES1-4 is stored in the secretory zone of the egg apparatus cells and that pollen tubes cannot discharge sperm in ZmES1-4 knock-down plants. Application of chemically synthesized ZmES4 leads to pollen tube burst within seconds in maize, but not in other plant species, suggesting this mechanism may be species specific. Finally, we identified the pollen tube-expressed potassium channel KZM1 as a target of ZmES4, which opens after ZmES4 treatment and probably leads to K+ influx and sperm release after osmotic burst.
PMCID: PMC2879413  PMID: 20532241
11.  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
12.  Homogalacturonan deesterification during pollen–ovule interaction in Larix decidua Mill.: an immunocytochemical study 
Planta  2014;240(1):195-208.
Studies on angiosperm plants have shown that homogalacturonan present in the extracellular matrix of pistils plays an important role in the interaction with the male gametophyte. However, in gymnosperms, knowledge on the participation of HG in the pollen–ovule interaction is limited, and only a few studies on male gametophytes have been reported. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the distribution of HG in male gametophytes and ovules during their interaction in Larix decidua Mill. The distribution of HG in pollen grains and unpollinated and pollinated ovules was investigated by immunofluorescence techniques using monoclonal antibodies that recognise high methyl-esterified HG (JIM7), low methyl-esterified HG (JIM5) and calcium cross-linked HG (2F4). All studied categories of HG were detected in the ovule. Highly methyl-esterified HG was present in the cell walls of all cells throughout the interaction; however, the distribution of low methyl-esterified and calcium cross-linked HG changed during the course of interaction. Both of these categories of HG appeared only in the apoplast and the extracellular matrix of the ovule tissues, which interact with the male gametophyte. This finding suggests that in L. decidua, low methyl-esterified and calcium cross-linked HG play an important role in pollen–ovule interaction. The last category of HG is most likely involved in adhesion between the pollen and the ovule and might provide an optimal calcium environment for pollen grain germination and pollen tube growth.
PMCID: PMC4065381  PMID: 24793355
Adhesion; Extracellular matrix; Gymnosperms; Pollen grain; Pollen tube growth; Pollination
13.  A Species-Specific Cluster of Defensin-Like Genes Encodes Diffusible Pollen Tube Attractants in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(12):e1001449.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3525529  PMID: 23271953
14.  Effects of exogenous materials on pollen tube growth in Lilium longiflorum pistils. 
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.
PMCID: PMC1568649  PMID: 7460875
15.  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
16.  Reproductive ecology of the basal angiosperm Trithuria submersa (Hydatellaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(6):909-920.
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.
Key Results
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.
PMCID: PMC2990668  PMID: 21047886
Autogamy; basal angiosperm; delayed self-pollination; Hydatellaceae; Nymphaeales; wind pollination; reproductive assurance; reproductive timing; stigma receptivity; Trithuria submersa
17.  Comprehensive analysis of tobacco pollen transcriptome unveils common pathways in polar cell expansion and underlying heterochronic shift during spermatogenesis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:24.
Many flowering plants produce bicellular pollen. The two cells of the pollen grain are destined for separate fates in the male gametophyte, which provides a unique opportunity to study genetic interactions that govern guided single-cell polar expansion of the growing pollen tube and the coordinated control of germ cell division and sperm cell fate specification. We applied the Agilent 44 K tobacco gene chip to conduct the first transcriptomic analysis of the tobacco male gametophyte. In addition, we performed a comparative study of the Arabidopsis root-hair trichoblast transcriptome to evaluate genetic factors and common pathways involved in polarized cell-tip expansion.
Progression of pollen grains from freshly dehisced anthers to pollen tubes 4 h after germination is accompanied with > 5,161 (14.9%) gametophyte-specific expressed probes active in at least one of the developmental stages. In contrast, > 18,821 (54.4%) probes were preferentially expressed in the sporophyte. Our comparative approach identified a subset of 104 pollen tube-expressed genes that overlap with root-hair trichoblasts. Reverse genetic analysis of selected candidates demonstrated that Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (CSD1), a WD-40 containing protein (BP130384), and Replication factor C1 (NtRFC1) are among the central regulators of pollen-tube tip growth. Extension of our analysis beyond the second haploid mitosis enabled identification of an opposing-dynamic accumulation of core regulators of cell proliferation and cell fate determinants in accordance with the progression of the germ cell cycle.
The current study provides a foundation to isolate conserved regulators of cell tip expansion and those that are unique for pollen tube growth to the female gametophyte. A transcriptomic data set is presented as a benchmark for future functional studies using developing pollen as a model. Our results demonstrated previously unknown functions of certain genes in pollen-tube tip growth. In addition, we highlighted the molecular dynamics of core cell-cycle regulators in the male gametophyte and postulated the first genetic model to account for the differential timing of spermatogenesis among angiosperms and its coordination with female gametogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3305590  PMID: 22340370
18.  Transmitting Tissue ECM Distribution and Composition, and Pollen Germinability in Sarcandra glabra and Chloranthus japonicus (Chloranthaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2005;96(5):779-791.
• Background and Aims Free-flowing surface exudates at the stigmatic (wet versus dry stigma) and adaxial epidermis at the site of angiospermy in carpels of Chloranthaceous species have been proposed to comprise a continuous extracellular matrix (ECM) operating in pollen tube transmission to the ovary. The aim of this research was to establish the spatial distribution and histo/immunochemical composition of the ECM involved in pollen tube growth in Sarcandra glabra and Chloranthus japonicus (Chloranthaceae).
• Methods Following confirmation of the pollen tube pathway, the histo/immunochemical make-up of the ECM was determined with histochemistry on fresh tissue to detect cuticle, esterase, proteins, pectins, and lipids and immunolocalization at the level of the TEM on sections from cryofixed/freeze-substituted tissue to detect molecules recognized by antibodies to homogalacturonans (JIM7, 5), arabinogalactan-proteins (JIM13) and cysteine-rich adhesion (SCA).
• Key Results Pollen germinability is low in both species. When grains germinate, they do so on an ECM comprised of an esterase-positive cuticle proper (dry versus wet stigma). Pollen tubes do not track the surface ECM of stigma or adaxial epidermal cells at the site of angiospermy. Instead, tubes grow between stigmatic cells and subsequently along the inner tangential walls of the stigmatic and adaxial carpel cells at the site of angiospermy. Pollen tubes enter the ovary locule at the base of the funiculus. The stigmatic ECM is distinct by virtue of the presence of anti-JIM5 aggregates, lipids, and a protein recognized by anti-SCA.
• Conclusions The Chloranthaceae joins a growing number of basal angiosperm taxa whereby pollen tubes germinate on a dry versus wet stigma to subsequently grow intercellularly en route to the ovary thereby challenging traditional views that the archetype pollen tube pathway was composed of the surface of stigma and adaxial epidermal cells covered with a free-flowing exudate.
PMCID: PMC4247049  PMID: 16046459
Chloranthaceae; dry stigma; transmitting tissue; extracellular matrix; homogalacturonans; lipids; anti-SCA
19.  Pollen tube energetics: respiration, fermentation and the race to the ovule 
AoB Plants  2011;2011:plr019.
This review covers historical and recent progress in understanding how respiration, fermentation and mitochondria contribute to pollen tube growth. It also summarizes what is known about the energetic requirements of this growth. Molecular mechanisms are viewed in the context of pollen tube physiology, a necessary perspective to understanding pollen tube growth.
Pollen tubes grow by transferring chemical energy from stored cellular starch and newly assimilated sugars into ATP. This drives myriad processes essential for cell elongation, directly or through the creation of ion gradients. Respiration plays a central role in generating and regulating this energy flow and thus in the success of plant reproduction. Pollen tubes are easily grown in vitro and have become an excellent model for investigating the contributions of respiration to plant cellular growth and morphogenesis at the molecular, biochemical and physiological levels.
In recent decades, pollen tube research has become increasingly focused on the molecular mechanisms involved in cellular processes. Yet, effective growth and development requires an intact, integrated set of cellular processes, all supplied with a constant flow of energy. Here we bring together information from the current and historical literature concerning respiration, fermentation and mitochondrial physiology in pollen tubes, and assess the significance of more recent molecular and genetic investigations in a physiological context.
The rapid growth of the pollen tube down the style has led to the evolution of high rates of pollen tube respiration. Respiration rates in lily predict a total energy turnover of 40–50 fmol ATP s−1 per pollen grain. Within this context we examine the energetic requirements of cell wall synthesis, osmoregulation, actin dynamics and cyclosis. At present, we can only estimate the amount of energy required, because data from growing pollen tubes are not available. In addition to respiration, we discuss fermentation and mitochondrial localization. We argue that the molecular pathways need to be examined within the physiological context to understand better the mechanisms that control tip growth in pollen tubes.
PMCID: PMC3169925  PMID: 22476489
20.  Establishment of the male germline and sperm cell movement during pollen germination and tube growth in maize 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(7):885-889.
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.
PMCID: PMC3014542  PMID: 20505353
male gametophyte; generative cell; sperm; pollen tube; tubulin; fertilization; maize
21.  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
22.  Receptor-like kinases as surface regulators for RAC/ROP-mediated pollen tube growth and interaction with the pistil 
AoB Plants  2011;2011:plr017.
Pollen tube growth is regulated by female tissue-produced factors that facilitate growth and provide directional guidance. We discuss here signal perception and transduction molecules on the male and the female cell surfaces mediate male-female interactions that underlie successful reproduction.
RAC/ROPs are RHO-type GTPases and are known to play diverse signalling roles in plants. Cytoplasmic RAC/ROPs are recruited to the cell membrane and activated in response to extracellular signals perceived and mediated by cell surface-located signalling assemblies, transducing the signals to regulate cellular processes. More than any other cell types in plants, pollen tubes depend on continuous interactions with an extracellular environment produced by their surrounding tissues as they grow within the female organ pistil to deliver sperm to the female gametophyte for fertilization.
We review studies on pollen tube growth that provide compelling evidence indicating that RAC/ROPs are crucial for regulating the cellular processes that underlie the polarized cell growth process. Efforts to identify cell surface regulators that mediate extracellular signals also point to RAC/ROPs being the molecular switches targeted by growth-regulating female factors for modulation to mediate pollination and fertilization. We discuss a large volume of work spanning more than two decades on a family of pollen-specific receptor kinases and some recent studies on members of the FERONIA family of receptor-like kinases (RLKs).
The research described shows the crucial roles that two RLK families play in transducing signals from growth regulatory factors to the RAC/ROP switch at the pollen tube apex to mediate and target pollen tube growth to the female gametophyte and signal its disintegration to achieve fertilization once inside the female chamber.
PMCID: PMC3158858  PMID: 22476487
23.  Ectopic expression of Arabidopsis thaliana plasma membrane intrinsic protein 2 aquaporins in lily pollen increases the plasma membrane water permeability of grain but not of tube protoplasts 
The New phytologist  2008;180(4):787-797.
To investigate the role of aquaporin-mediated water transport during pollen grain germination and tube growth, Arabidopsis thaliana plasma membrane intrinsic proteins (PIPs) were expressed in pollen of Lilium longiflorum (lily).Successful expression of AtPIPs in particle-bombarded lily pollen grains was monitored by co-expression with fluorescent proteins and single-cell RT-PCR, and by measuring the water permeability coefficient (Pos) in swelling assays using protoplasts prepared from transformed pollen grains and tubes.Expression of AtPIP1;1 and AtPIP1;2 in pollen grains resulted in Pos values similar to those measured in nontransformed pollen grain protoplasts (6.65 ± 2.41 μm s−1), whereas expression of AtPIP2 significantly increased Pos (AtPIP2;1, 13.79 ± 6.38; AtPIP2;2, 10.16 ± 3.30 μm s−1). Transformation with combinations of AtPIP1 and AtPIP2 did not further enhance Pos. Native pollen tube protoplasts showed higher Pos values (13.23 ± 4.14 μm s−1) than pollen grain protoplasts but expression of AtPIP2;1 (18.85 ± 7.60 μm s−1) did not significantly increase their Pos values. Expression of none of the tested PIPs had any effect on pollen tube growth rates.The ectopic expression of AtPIP2s in lily pollen increased the water permeability of the plasma membrane in pollen grains, but not in pollen tubes. The measured endogenous water permeability does not limit water uptake during tube growth, but has to be regulated to prevent tube bursting.
PMCID: PMC2999827  PMID: 18761636
aquaporin; fluorescent protein; pollen; protoplast; tip growth; water transport
24.  ANXUR Receptor-Like Kinases Coordinate Cell Wall Integrity with Growth at the Pollen Tube Tip Via NADPH Oxidases 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(11):e1001719.
Pollen tubes grow extremely rapidly to effect fertilization in plants. ANXUR receptor-like kinases facilitate this growth by linking the intracellular growth machinery of pollen tubes to the status of the extracellular matrix via H2O2 and Ca2+ signaling.
It has become increasingly apparent that the extracellular matrix (ECM), which in plants corresponds to the cell wall, can influence intracellular activities in ways that go far beyond their supposedly passive mechanical support. In plants, growing cells use mechanisms sensing cell wall integrity to coordinate cell wall performance with the internal growth machinery to avoid growth cessation or loss of integrity. How this coordination precisely works is unknown. Previously, we reported that in the tip-growing pollen tube the ANXUR receptor-like kinases (RLKs) of the CrRLK1L subfamily are essential to sustain growth without loss of cell wall integrity in Arabidopsis. Here, we show that over-expression of the ANXUR RLKs inhibits growth by over-activating exocytosis and the over-accumulation of secreted cell wall material. Moreover, the characterization of mutations in two partially redundant pollen-expressed NADPH oxidases coupled with genetic interaction studies demonstrate that the ANXUR RLKs function upstream of these NADPH oxidases. Using the H2O2-sensitive HyPer and the Ca2+-sensitive YC3.60 sensors in NADPH oxidase-deficient mutants, we reveal that NADPH oxidases generate tip-localized, pulsating H2O2 production that functions, possibly through Ca2+ channel activation, to maintain a steady tip-focused Ca2+ gradient during growth. Our findings support a model where ECM-sensing receptors regulate reactive oxygen species production, Ca2+ homeostasis, and exocytosis to coordinate ECM-performance with the internal growth machinery.
Author Summary
Tip-growing cells, such as plant root hairs and pollen tubes or fungal hyphae, are characterized by a tip-focused Ca2+ gradient. These tip-growing cells tightly coordinate the loosening and pressure-driven deformation of their extracellular matrix (ECM)—the cell wall in plant cells—by locally adding new membrane and cell wall materials. In pollen tubes, which grow at amazing speeds to effect fertilization in plants, a class of kinases called the ANXUR receptor-like kinases (RLKs) sense perturbations in cell wall integrity, and their loss leads to pollen tube rupture. Here, we gain new insights into the mechanism of cell wall surveillance by these RLKs in the model plant Arabidopsis. We show that over-expressing ANXUR RLKs over-activates exocytosis, causing an over-accumulation of secreted cell wall material that eventually leads to growth arrest. Moreover, we find that the ANXUR RLKs function upstream of NADPH oxidases, which are membrane-anchored enzymes that produce reactive oxygen species (ROS). Using H2O2- and Ca2+-sensitive reporters, we show that NADPH oxidases generate tip-localized H2O2 production, which is required to maintain a steady, tip-focused Ca2+ gradient that is essential for pollen tube growth. We postulate that ECM-sensing receptors, such as the ANXUR RLKs, regulate ROS production, Ca2+ homeostasis, and exocytosis to coordinate the status of the ECM with the cell's internal growth machinery.
PMCID: PMC3841104  PMID: 24302886
25.  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

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