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Plant Physiol. 2006 Nov;142(3):1004-13. Epub 2006 Sep 15.

Separation of Arabidopsis pollen tetrads is regulated by QUARTET1, a pectin methylesterase gene.

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  • 1Department of Biology and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) QUARTET (QRT) genes are required for pollen separation during normal floral development. In qrt mutants, the four products of microsporogenesis remain fused and pollen grains are released as tetrads. In Arabidopsis, tetrad analysis in qrt mutants has been used to map all five centromeres, easily distinguish sporophytic from gametophytic mutations, and accurately assess crossover interference. Using a combination of forward and reverse genetics, we have identified the gene responsible for the qrt1 phenotype. Annotation predicts that QRT1 encodes a pectin methylesterase (PME), and enzymatic assays of QRT1 expressed in Escherichia coli indicate that QRT1 has PME activity. Promoter and transcription analysis demonstrate QRT1 is expressed in anther tissues shortly after meiosis is complete. Unexpectedly, the QRT1 promoter is also active in a variety of developmentally unrelated tissues, including developing guard cells, the hypocotyl-root transition zone, areas of lateral root emergence, and floral nectaries. PMEs constitute a large gene family in Arabidopsis, are involved in cell wall loosening, and have been implicated in various aspects of floral development and pollen tube elongation. The identification of QRT1 as a PME contributes to our understanding of pollen development and may help to provide valuable genetic tools in other plant species.

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