Flavonols and fertilization in Petunia hybrida: localization and mode of action during pollen tube growth

Bauke Ylstra, Jacqueline Busscher, John Franken, Peter C.H. Hollman, Joseph N.M. Mol, Arjen J. Van Tunen

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Flavonols form an important class of flavonoids which serve an essential function during plant reproduction. Flavonoid biosynthesis is initiated by the enzyme chalcone synthase (CHS). A high abundance of flavonols and chs mRNA was demonstrated in male and female reproductive organs of Petunia hybrida. Detailed analyses revealed precise spatial and temporal regulation of the chs promoter and flavonol synthesis in the stigma, style and ovules. Transgenic plants were generated with a complete block of flavonol biosynthesis as the result of anti‐sense inhibition of chs gene activity. The absence of flavonols by this dominant mutation rendered these plants self‐sterile. Pollination experiments with wild‐type and mutant plants revealed that the production of flavonols in either the anthers or the pistils was required for pollen tube growth and seed set. Mutant pollen without flavonols in their exine germinated normally. However, after a short period of in vitro pollen tube growth the tips of these tubes disrupted and the protoplasm was disloaded leading to the death of the pollen grain. Addition of flavonol aglycones but not other flavonoids complemented this phenotype. Confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed the localization of high levels of flavonols throughout the wild‐type pollen tube. These compounds were not detected in the exine or cell wall of growing tubes. In addition, it was observed that the flavone apigenin could completely inhibit pollen tube growth. Taken together, it is shown that flavonols play an important role in the growth of the pollen tube and their mode of action is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-212
Number of pages12
JournalThe Plant Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994

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