In animals, microtubules and centrosomes direct the migration of gamete pronuclei for fertilization. By contrast, flowering plants have lost essential components of the centrosome, raising the question of how flowering plants control gamete nuclei migration during fertilization. Here, we use Arabidopsis thaliana to document a novel mechanism that regulates F-actin dynamics in the female gametes and is essential for fertilization. Live imaging shows that F-actin structures assist the male nucleus during its migration towards the female nucleus. We identify a female gamete-specific Rho-GTPase that regulates F-actin dynamics and further show that actin-myosin interactions are also involved in male gamete nucleus migration. Genetic analyses and imaging indicate that microtubules are dispensable for migration and fusion of male and female gamete nuclei. The innovation of a novel actin-based mechanism of fertilization during plant evolution might account for the complete loss of the centrosome in flowering plants.
Ca(2+) waves and oscillation are key signalling elements during the fertilization process of animals, and are involved, for example, in egg activation. In the unique double fertilization process in flowering plants, both the egg cell and the neighbouring central cell fuse with a sperm cell each. Here we succeeded in imaging cytosolic Ca(2+) in these two cells, and in the two synergid cells that accompany the gametes during semi-in vivo double fertilization. Following pollen tube discharge and plasmogamy, the egg and central cells displayed transient Ca(2+) spikes, but not oscillations. Only the events in the egg cell correlated with the plasmogamy. In contrast, the synergid cells displayed Ca(2+) oscillations on pollen tube arrival. The two synergid cells showed distinct Ca(2+) dynamics depending on their respective roles in tube reception. These Ca(2+) dynamics in the female gametophyte seem to represent highly specific signatures that coordinate successful double fertilization in the flowering plants.
The production of the sperm cells in angiosperms requires coordination of cell division and cell differentiation. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the germline-specific MYB protein DUO1 integrates these processes, but the regulatory hierarchy in which DUO1 functions is unknown. Here, we identify an essential role for two germline-specific DUO1 target genes, DAZ1 and DAZ2, which encode EAR motif-containing C2H2-type zinc finger proteins. We show that DAZ1/DAZ2 are required for germ cell division and for the proper accumulation of mitotic cyclins. Importantly, DAZ1/DAZ2 are sufficient to promote G2- to M-phase transition and germ cell division in the absence of DUO1. DAZ1/DAZ2 are also required for DUO1-dependent cell differentiation and are essential for gamete fusion at fertilization. We demonstrate that the two EAR motifs in DAZ1/DAZ2 mediate their function in the male germline and are required for transcriptional repression and for physical interaction with the corepressor TOPLESS. Our findings uncover an essential module in a regulatory hierarchy that drives mitotic transition in male germ cells and implicates gene repression pathways in sperm cell formation and fertility.
In flowering plants, pollen germinates on the stigma and pollen tubes grow through the style to fertilize the ovules. Enzymatic production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been suggested to be involved in pollen tube tip growth. Here, we characterized the function and regulation of the NADPH oxidases RbohH and RbohJ (Respiratory burst oxidase homolog H and J) in pollen tubes in Arabidopsis thaliana. In the rbohH and rbohJ single mutants, pollen tube tip growth was comparable to that of the wild type; however, tip growth was severely impaired in the double mutant. In vivo imaging showed that ROS accumulation in the pollen tube was impaired in the double mutant. Both RbohH and RbohJ, which contain Ca(2+) binding EF-hand motifs, possessed Ca(2+)-induced ROS-producing activity and localized at the plasma membrane of the pollen tube tip. Point mutations in the EF-hand motifs impaired Ca(2+)-induced ROS production and complementation of the double mutant phenotype. We also showed that a protein phosphatase inhibitor enhanced the Ca(2+)-induced ROS-producing activity of RbohH and RbohJ, suggesting their synergistic activation by protein phosphorylation and Ca(2+). Our results suggest that ROS production by RbohH and RbohJ is essential for proper pollen tube tip growth, and furthermore, that Ca(2+)-induced ROS positive feedback regulation is conserved in the polarized cell growth to shape the long tubular cell.
In many flowering plants, flowers consist of two peripheral organs, sepals and petals, occurring in outer two whorls, and two inner reproductive organs, stamens and carpels. These organs are arranged in a concentric pattern in a floral meristem, and the organ identity is established by the combined action of floral homeotic genes expressed along the whorls. Floral organ primordia arise at fixed positions in the floral meristem within each whorl. The RABBIT EARS (RBE) gene is transcribed in the petal precursor cells and primordia, and regulates petal initiation and early growth in Arabidopsis thaliana. We investigated the spatial and temporal expression pattern of a RBE protein fused to the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Expression of the GFP:RBE fusion gene under the RBE cis-regulatory genomic fragment rescues the rbe petal defects, indicating that the fusion protein is functional. The GFP signal is located to the cells where RBE is transcribed, suggesting that RBE function is cell-autonomous. Ectopic expression of GFP:RBE under the APETALA1 promoter causes the homeotic conversion of floral organs, resulting in sterile flowers. In these plants, the class B homeotic genes APETALA3 and PISTILLATA are down-regulated, suggesting that the restriction of the RBE expression to the petal precursor cells is crucial for flower development.
Neurite growth requires two guanine nucleotide-binding protein polymers of tubulins and septins. However, whether and how those cytoskeletal systems are coordinated was unknown. Here we show that the acute knockdown or knockout of the pivotal septin subunit SEPT7 from cerebrocortical neurons impairs their interhemispheric and cerebrospinal axon projections and dendritogenesis in perinatal mice, when the microtubules are severely hyperacetylated. The resulting hyperstabilization and growth retardation of microtubules are demonstrated in vitro. The phenotypic similarity between SEPT7 depletion and the pharmacological inhibition of ?-tubulin deacetylase HDAC6 reveals that HDAC6 requires SEPT7 not for its enzymatic activity, but to associate with acetylated ?-tubulin. These and other findings indicate that septins provide a physical scaffold for HDAC6 to achieve efficient microtubule deacetylation, thereby negatively regulating microtubule stability to an optimal level for neuritogenesis. Our findings shed light on the mechanisms underlying the HDAC6-mediated coupling of the two ubiquitous cytoskeletal systems during neural development.
In flowering plants, double fertilization is normally accomplished by the first pollen tube, with the fertilized ovule subsequently inhibiting the attraction of a second pollen tube. However, the mechanism of second-pollen-tube avoidance remains unknown. We discovered that failure to fertilize either the egg cell or the central cell compromised second-pollen-tube avoidance in Arabidopsis thaliana. A similar disturbance was caused by disrupting the fertilization-independent seed (FIS) class polycomb-repressive complex 2 (FIS-PRC2), a central cell- and endosperm-specific chromatin-modifying complex for gene silencing. Therefore, the two female gametes have evolved their own signaling pathways. Intriguingly, second-pollen-tube attraction induced by half-successful fertilization allowed the ovules to complete double fertilization, producing a genetically distinct embryo and endosperm. We thus propose that each female gamete independently determines second-pollen-tube avoidance to maximize reproductive fitness in flowering plants.
Sexual reproduction ensures propagation of species and enhances genetic diversity within populations. In flowering plants, sexual reproduction requires complicated and multi-step cell-to-cell communications among male and female cells. However, the confined nature of plant reproduction processes, which occur in the female reproductive organs and several cell layers of the pistil, limits our ability to observe these events in vivo. In this review, we discuss recent live-cell imaging in in vitro systems and the optical manipulation techniques that are used to capture the dynamic mechanisms representing molecular and cellular communications in sexual plant reproduction.
Volvocine green algae represent the "evolutionary time machine" model lineage for studying multicellularity, because they encompass the whole range of evolutionary transition of multicellularity from unicellular Chlamydomonas to >500-celled Volvox. Multicellular volvocalean species including Gonium pectorale and Volvox carteri generally have several common morphological features to survive as integrated multicellular organisms such as "rotational asymmetry of cells" so that the cells become components of the individual and "cytoplasmic bridges between protoplasts in developing embryos" to maintain the species-specific form of the multicellular individual before secretion of new extracellular matrix (ECM). However, these morphological features have not been studied in the four-celled colonial volvocine species Tetrabaena socialis that is positioned in the most basal lineage within the colonial or multicellular volvocine greens. Here we established synchronous cultures of T. socialis and carried out immunofluorescence microscopic and ultrastructural observations to elucidate these two morphological attributes. Based on immunofluorescence microscopy, four cells of the mature T. socialis colony were identical in morphology but had rotational asymmetry in arrangement of microtubular rootlets and separation of basal bodies like G. pectorale and V. carteri. Ultrastructural observations clearly confirmed the presence of cytoplasmic bridges between protoplasts in developing embryos of T. socialis even after the formation of new flagella in each daughter protoplast within the parental ECM. Therefore, these two morphological attributes might have evolved in the common four-celled ancestor of the colonial volvocine algae and contributed to the further increase in cell number and complexity of the multicellular individuals of this model lineage. T. socialis is one of the simplest integrated multicellular organisms in which four identical cells constitute the individual.
Double fertilization is a flowering plant mechanism whereby two immotile sperm cells fertilize two different female gametes. One of the two sperm cells fertilizes the egg cell to produce the embryo and the other fertilizes the central cell to produce the endosperm. Despite the biological and agricultural significance of double fertilization, the mechanism remains largely unknown owing to difficulties associated with the embedded structure of female gametes in the maternal tissue. However, molecular genetic approaches combined with novel live-cell imaging techniques have begun to clarify the actual behavior of the sperm cells, which is different from that described by previous hypotheses. In this review article, we discuss the mechanism of double fertilization based on the dynamics of the two sperm cells in Arabidopsis.
Flowering plants have evolved a unique reproductive process called double fertilization, whereby two dimorphic female gametes are fertilized by two immotile sperm cells conveyed by the pollen tube. The two sperm cells are arranged in tandem with a leading pollen tube nucleus to form the male germ unit and are placed under the same genetic controls. Genes controlling double fertilization have been identified, but whether each sperm cell is able to fertilize either female gamete is still unclear. The dynamics of individual sperm cells after their release in the female tissue remain largely unknown. In this study, we photolabeled individual isomorphic sperm cells before their release and analyzed their fate during double fertilization in Arabidopsis thaliana. We found that sperm delivery was composed of three steps. Sperm cells were projected together to the boundary between the two female gametes. After a long period of immobility, each sperm cell fused with either female gamete in no particular order, and no preference was observed for either female gamete. Our results suggest that the two sperm cells at the front and back of the male germ unit are functionally equivalent and suggest unexpected cell-cell communications required for sperm cells to coordinate double fertilization of the two female gametes.
Fertilization in flowering plants involves two sperm cells and two female gametes, the egg cell and the central cell, progenitors of the embryo and the endosperm, respectively. The mechanisms triggering zygotic development are unknown and whether both parental genomes are required for zygotic development is unclear. In Arabidopsis, previous studies reported that loss-of-function mutations in CYCLIN DEPENDENT KINASE A1 (CDKA;1) impedes cell cycle progression in the pollen leading to the production of a single sperm cell. Here, we report that a significant proportion of single cdka;1 pollen delivers two sperm cells, leading to a new assessment of the cdka;1 phenotype. We performed fertilization of wild-type ovules with cdka;1 mutant sperm cells and monitored in vivo the fusion of the male and female nuclei using fluorescent markers. When a single cdka;1 sperm was delivered, either female gamete could be fertilized leading to similar proportions of seeds containing either a single endosperm or a single embryo. When two cdka;1 sperm cells were released, they fused to each female gamete. Embryogenesis was initiated but the fusion between the nuclei of the sperm cell and the central cell failed. The failure of karyogamy in the central cell prevented incorporation of the paternal genome, impaired endosperm development and caused seed abortion. Our results thus support that the paternal genome plays an essential role during early seed development. However, sperm entry was sufficient to trigger central cell mitotic division, suggesting the existence of signaling events associated with sperm cell fusion with female gametes.
For more than 140 years, pollen tube guidance in flowering plants has been thought to be mediated by chemoattractants derived from target ovules. However, there has been no convincing evidence of any particular molecule being the true attractant that actually controls the navigation of pollen tubes towards ovules. Emerging data indicate that two synergid cells on the side of the egg cell emit a diffusible, species-specific signal to attract the pollen tube at the last step of pollen tube guidance. Here we report that secreted, cysteine-rich polypeptides (CRPs) in a subgroup of defensin-like proteins are attractants derived from the synergid cells. We isolated synergid cells of Torenia fournieri, a unique plant with a protruding embryo sac, to identify transcripts encoding secreted proteins as candidate molecules for the chemoattractant(s). We found two CRPs, abundantly and predominantly expressed in the synergid cell, which are secreted to the surface of the egg apparatus. Moreover, they showed activity in vitro to attract competent pollen tubes of their own species and were named as LUREs. Injection of morpholino antisense oligomers against the LUREs impaired pollen tube attraction, supporting the finding that LUREs are the attractants derived from the synergid cells of T. fournieri.
In animal fertilization, multiple sperms typically arrive at an egg cell to "win the race" for fertilization. However, in flowering plants, only one of many pollen tubes, conveying plant sperm cells, usually arrives at each ovule that harbors an egg cell. Plant fertilization has thus been thought to depend on the fertility of a single pollen tube. Here we report a fertilization recovery phenomenon in flowering plants that actively rescues the failure of fertilization of the first mutant pollen tube by attracting a second, functional pollen tube. Wild-type (WT) ovules of Arabidopsis thaliana frequently (?80%) accepted two pollen tubes when entered by mutant pollen defective in gamete fertility. In typical flowering plants, two synergid cells on the side of the egg cell attract pollen tubes, one of which degenerates upon pollen tube discharge. By semi-in vitro live-cell imaging we observed that fertilization was rescued when the second synergid cell accepted a WT pollen tube. Our results suggest that flowering plants precisely control the number of pollen tubes that arrive at each ovule and employ a fertilization recovery mechanism to maximize the likelihood of successful seed set.
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