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PLoS One. 2010 Oct 6;5(10):e13157. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013157.

A compartmental model analysis of integrative and self-regulatory ion dynamics in pollen tube growth.

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  • 1School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom.


Sexual reproduction in higher plants relies upon the polarised growth of pollen tubes. The growth-site at the pollen tube tip responds to signalling processes to successfully steer the tube to an ovule. Essential features of pollen tube growth are polarisation of ion fluxes, intracellular ion gradients, and oscillating dynamics. However, little is known about how these features are generated and how they are causally related. We propose that ion dynamics in biological systems should be studied in an integrative and self-regulatory way. Here we have developed a two-compartment model by integrating major ion transporters at both the tip and shank of pollen tubes. We demonstrate that the physiological features of polarised growth in the pollen tube can be explained by the localised distribution of transporters at the tip and shank. Model analysis reveals that the tip and shank compartments integrate into a self-regulatory dynamic system, however the oscillatory dynamics at the tip do not play an important role in maintaining ion gradients. Furthermore, an electric current travelling along the pollen tube contributes to the regulation of ion dynamics. Two candidate mechanisms for growth-induced oscillations are proposed: the transition of tip membrane into shank membrane, and growth-induced changes in kinetic parameters of ion transporters. The methodology and principles developed here are applicable to the study of ion dynamics and their interactions with other functional modules in any plant cellular system.

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