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Development. 2003 May;130(10):2149-59.

The Arabidopsis mutant feronia disrupts the female gametophytic control of pollen tube reception.

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Institute of Plant Biology & Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse107, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland.


Reproduction in angiosperms depends on communication processes of the male gametophyte (pollen) with the female floral organs (pistil, transmitting tissue) and the female gametophyte (embryo sac). Pollen-pistil interactions control pollen hydration, germination and growth through the stylar tissue. The female gametophyte is involved in guiding the growing pollen tube towards the micropyle and embryo sac. One of the two synergids flanking the egg cell starts to degenerate and becomes receptive for pollen tube entry. Pollen tube growth arrests and the tip of the pollen tube ruptures to release the sperm cells. Failures in the mutual interaction between the synergid and the pollen tube necessarily impair fertility. But the control of pollen tube reception is not understood. We isolated a semisterile, female gametophytic mutant from Arabidopsis thaliana, named feronia after the Etruscan goddess of fertility, which impairs this process. In the feronia mutant, embryo sac development and pollen tube guidance were unaffected in all ovules, although one half of the ovules bore mutant female gametophytes. However, when the pollen tube entered the receptive synergid of a feronia mutant female gametophyte, it continued to grow, failed to rupture and release the sperm cells, and invaded the embryo sac. Thus, the feronia mutation disrupts the interaction between the male and female gametophyte required to elicit these processes. Frequently, mutant embryo sacs received supernumerary pollen tubes. We analysed feronia with synergid-specific GUS marker lines, which demonstrated that the specification and differentiation of the synergids was normal. However, GUS expression in mutant gametophytes persisted after pollen tube entry, in contrast to wild-type embryo sacs where it rapidly decreased. Apparently, the failure in pollen tube reception results in the continued expression of synergid-specific genes, probably leading to an extended expression of a potential pollen tube attractant.

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