Egg Cell–Secreted EC1 Triggers Sperm Cell Activation During Double Fertilization

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Science  23 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6110, pp. 1093-1097
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223944

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Double fertilization is the defining characteristic of flowering plants. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating the fusion of one sperm with the egg and the second sperm with the central cell are largely unknown. We show that gamete interactions in Arabidopsis depend on small cysteine-rich EC1 (EGG CELL 1) proteins accumulating in storage vesicles of the egg cell. Upon sperm arrival, EC1-containing vesicles are exocytosed. The sperm endomembrane system responds to exogenously applied EC1 peptides by redistributing the potential gamete fusogen HAP2/GCS1 (HAPLESS 2/GENERATIVE CELL SPECIFIC 1) to the cell surface. Furthermore, fertilization studies with ec1 quintuple mutants show that successful male-female gamete interactions are necessary to prevent multiple–sperm cell delivery. Our findings provide evidence that mutual gamete activation, regulated exocytosis, and sperm plasma membrane modifications govern flowering plant gamete interactions.

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