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Sexual plant reproduction: Male and female talk in the same way as do cells in your brain
Date:3/17/2011

A team of researchers at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC), Portugal, discovered that pollen, the organ that contains the plant male gametes, communicate with the pistil, their female counterpart, using a mechanism commonly observed in the nervous system of animals. This study not only reveals a new mechanism which underlies reproduction in plants, but also opens an exciting new avenue in the study of how cell-cell communication is conserved between animals and plants. The research is to be published this week in Science Express (*) of the journal Science, published by the AAAS, the science society, and the world's largest general scientific organization.

For many years biologist have observed regular oscillations in several parameters that control growth of pollen tubes, such as pH (concentration of proton ions) and calcium ions, but the actual molecular channels that control these oscillations and their physiological output have remained elusive. Led by Jos Feij, group leader at the IGC and Professor at Lisbon University, this international team have now discovered that the oscillations of calcium ions in the growing pollen tubes of tobacco and the weed Arabidopsis are facilitated by channels called Glutamate receptors-like (GLRs), and that these channels are opened by, amongst other components, a rare aminoacid, D-serine (D-Ser). Both D-Ser and GLRs are key molecular players in cell-cell communication in the animal central nervous systems, at various levels: they play a central role in memory and learning processes in the brain, and have been implicated in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer, Huntington's disease and others. And now, surprisingly, they also have a role in reproduction of plants.

Working in the IGC laboratories, the team used an extensive combination of genetic, pharmacologic and electrophysiological techniques to reveal the role of glutamate receptor-lik
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Contact: Silvia Castro
sacastro@igc.gulbenkian.pt
351-214-464-537
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
Source:Eurekalert  

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