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Biologists find unusual plant gene: abstinence by mutual consent
Date:12/20/2007

ls and plants, fertilization relies on complex and specialized mechanisms that allow the precise delivery of the male reproductive sperm cell to the female egg cell. Fertilization requires fusion of the sperm and egg cells. In flowering plants, the male pollen tube carries sperm cells through the maternal tissues to deliver the sperm to the female reproductive cells. Once the pollen tube gets close to the egg cells, fertilization requires the bursting of the pollen tube. This pollen tube bursting expels sperm cells from inside the pollen tube, so sperm can then fertilize the female reproductive cell.

In investigating why the mutation they discovered caused disruption of fertilization in the mustard plant Arabidopsis, the scientists found that the pollen tubes did not burst when they came close to the female egg cells. So in the mutant plants, the sperm cells were not expelled from the pollen tubes toward the female cells. Instead the pollen tubes, in which the sperm reside, kept growing past the eggs cells.

The abstinence by mutual consent gene is the first gene identified so far with a critical function at the same time in both plant male and female reproductive cells that is essential for the delivery of sperm cells to the egg cell, said Boisson-Dernier.

The abstinence by mutual consent mutant pollen just acts as if there were no egg cell around and keeps on growing, Schroeder added. Its interesting because this lack of pollen bursting only happens if the mutation is carried by both the male and female, suggesting the abstinence by mutual consent gene somehow allows the male pollen and the female reproductive cells to talk to one another.

Boisson-Dernier found that the gene is responsible for producing a protein called peroxin that targets small organelles inside the cell called peroxisomes. Within the cell, peroxisomes are small organelles whose main functions are metabolizing fatty acids, protecting the cell from toxic free
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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