Today, more than a century after a German-Polish botanist first described the process of fertilization in flowering plants, scientists have identified an elusive molecular signal critical to that process. The finding, published this week in linkurl:PLoS Biology,; sheds light on the evolution of plant fertilization mechanisms and could lead to strategies to overcome species-specific barriers for crossbreeding crops. "This is an exciting paper," said University of California, Davis plant biologist linkurl:Venkatesan Sundaresan; in an email. "They show exactly how [the signal] works by some very elegant experiments," added Sundaresan, who was not involved in the research.
Pollen tube, stained in red
Image courtesy of PLoS Biology
When a pollen grain, which contains the male sperm, lands on another plant, it grows a pollen tube into the female reproductive tissues. Eventually, the pollen tube halts and bursts to release two sperm cells, one to fertilize the egg and another...
Tripsacum dactyloides,S. Amien et al. "Defensin-Like ZmES4 Mediates Pollen Tube Burst in Maize via Opening of the Potassium Channel KZM1." PLoS Biol 8(6): e1000388.

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