Nearly 80 percent of the worlds food begins as seeds, including such staple crops as corn, wheat and rice. Despite the importance and ubiquity of seeds, researchers have learned precious little about the processes that regulate plant fertilization, the essential first step in seed formation.
Pollen tubes (red tubules) from the pop2 mutant grow in a tangled mass within female tissues. Rather than efficiently growing up to an ovule (upper right), they instead gather at the ovules base.
Photo: Anna Edlund
Now, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers have identified a key molecular signal that regulates the growth and guidance of the “pollen tube,” a tunnel formed by the pollen grain that aids in fertilizing the plants eggs. They say their initial findings could open a new route to understanding the multitude of interacting control signals that likely guide the pollen tube on its crucial journey.
In an article published in the July 11, 2003, issue of the journal Cell, HHMI investigator Daphne Preuss and her colleagues at the University of Chicago report that the molecule gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), best known for its role as a neurotransmitter in the mammalian nervous system, is a key signaling molecule that triggers plant reproduction.
Jim Keeley | HHMI
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