Plant Gametes Do Fertilization with a Twist

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Science  23 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6110, pp. 1038-1039
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231259

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A new generation in eukaryotes begins with fusion between sperm and egg, but we know little about the mechanisms involved. Sperm-egg interactions have been studied most thoroughly in animals, but on page 1093 of this issue, Sprunck et al. (1) have pushed our understanding of gamete interactions in plants to the head of the model organisms class. They discovered that plants do the fertilization dance similarly to animals, but with a twist. In animals, the egg remains quiescent until fused with the sperm, but in Arabidopsis the egg leads. The egg cell responds to sperm discharged from a newly arrived pollen tube by secreting a cloud of sperm-activating proteins. The aroused sperm redistributes a previously cryptic putative membrane fusogen to its plasma membrane to prepare for fusion.