PLANT SCIENCES

To Grow or Not to Grow

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Science  13 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6065, pp. 147
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6065.147-b

A pollen grain that lands on a compatible pistil (the central female reproductive organ of flowering plants) still has a ways to go before it can achieve successful fertilization. Pollen grains contain plant sperm cells, but must also grow a tube through which the sperm cells migrate from the pistil surface to the more distant ovule. The factors that regulate this process are not well defined. Qin et al. have now identified a small diffusible compound from the Arabidopsis pistil that encourages pollen germination. After mass spectrometry analysis identified the key compound, the authors synthesized structural mimics: N-methanesulfinyl 1- and 2-azadecalins. Although flavonols can trigger germination of tobacco pollen, they do not have that effect on Arabidopsis pollen. Arabidopsis pollen germination instead seems to be enhanced by the sulfinylated azadecalins, which have no such effect in tobacco. These findings, along with quantitative differences in responses of pollen from Columbia and Landsberg accessions of Arabidopsis, hint at some level of divergence and specificity in how these signals interact with pollen of diverse species.

Plant J. 68, 800 (2011).

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