Male–Female Crosstalk during Pollen Germination, Tube Growth and Guidance, and Double Fertilization

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Abstract

Sperm cells of flowering plants are non-motile and thus require transportation to the egg apparatus via the pollen tube to execute double fertilization. During its journey, the pollen tube interacts with various sporophytic cell types that support its growth and guide it towards the surface of the ovule. The final steps of tube guidance and sperm delivery are controlled by the cells of the female gametophyte. During fertilization, cell–cell communication events take place to achieve and maximize reproductive success. Additional layers of crosstalk exist, including self-recognition and specialized processes to prevent self-fertilization and consequent inbreeding. In this review, we focus on intercellular communication between the pollen grain/pollen tube including the sperm cells with the various sporophytic maternal tissues and the cells of the female gametophyte. Polymorphic-secreted peptides and small proteins, especially those belonging to various subclasses of small cysteine-rich proteins (CRPs), reactive oxygen species (ROS)/NO signaling, and the second messenger Ca2+, play center stage in most of these processes.

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