Scientists have demonstrated the importance of programmed cell death in preventing inbreeding in plants, according to research published in Nature today. Researchers at the University of Birmingham School of Biosciences have found that self-incompatibility, an important mechanism in plants that prevents them fertilizing themselves with their own pollen, which is genetically controlled by products of the S locus, triggers programmed cell death in incompatible pollen coming into contact with the stigma.
The work, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), was carried out on the field poppy, Papaver rhoeas and has shown the involvement of programmed cell death (PCD) in plant self-incompatibility for the first time. PCD is a mechanism used by many organisms to destroy unwanted cells in a precise and regulated manner and in various forms it plays a crucial role determining development in many things from embryos to tumours.
The researchers, using methods common in the study of animal cells but not widely used with plant cells, found that S proteins encoded by the stigma component of the S locus interacted with incompatible pollen to inhibit pollen tube growth and to trigger PCD. It has been known that plants use PCD to fight disease but it had not been proven that it was involved in self-incompatibility.
Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
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