Arabidopsis pollen tube integrity and sperm release are regulated by RALF-mediated signaling
In flowering plants, fertilization requires complex cell-to-cell communication events between the pollen tube and the female reproductive tissues, which are controlled by extracellular signaling molecules interacting with receptors at the pollen tube surface. We found that two such receptors in Arabidopsis, BUPS1 and BUPS2, and their peptide ligands, RALF4 and RALF19, are pollen tube–expressed and are required to maintain pollen tube integrity. BUPS1 and BUPS2 interact with receptors ANXUR1 and ANXUR2 via their ectodomains, and both sets of receptors bind RALF4 and RALF19. These receptor-ligand interactions are in competition with the female-derived ligand RALF34, which induces pollen tube bursting at nanomolar concentrations. We propose that RALF34 replaces RALF4 and RALF19 at the interface of pollen tube–female gametophyte contact, thereby deregulating BUPS-ANXUR signaling and in turn leading to pollen tube rupture and sperm release.