Viagra affects growth of the male sex organ of plants, by intensifying the effect of nitric oxide during plant fertilization. This discovery, made by the Plant Development team at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), in Portugal, will be published in Development, in June. The study, led by José Feijó, takes a step further in understanding fertilization in plants, a complex process but an absolutely essential one for the survival and evolution of species.
Pollen grains, which contain the plants’ male gametes (sperm cells), are carried from the male organ of the flower (the stamen) to the female organ (the pistil). Here the pollen germinates and grows a pollen tube, which extends and is guided to the ovary, where it releases the sperm. The sperm fuse with the egg cells, giving rise to an embryo, part of the seed. For many years now, scientists have been trying to unravel the mechanisms that guide the pollen tube along the long route to reach the ovary.
The Plant Development group of the IGC, now shows, for the first time, that nitric oxide (NO), a well-known gas that animal cells use as a hormone, influences the speed and direction of growth of lily pollen tubes. Upon encountering a point source of NO, lily pollen tubes slow down, almost stop, make a 90 degree turn, and start growing again.
Ana Coutinho | alfa
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