Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biologists Discover Gene Behind 'Plant Sex Mystery'

Date:
October 23, 2008
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
An enigma -- unique to flowering plants -- has been solved by researchers from the UK and South Korea. Scientists already knew that flowering plants require not one, but two sperm cells for successful fertilisation. The mystery of this 'double fertilization' process was how each single pollen grain could produce 'twin' sperm cells.

The image shows two pollen grains viewed by fluorescence microscopy. A pair of red sperm cells are visible in the normal pollen grain (top left) whilst only one red germ cell is present in mutant pollen (bottom right). The sperm cells are visualized using the monomeric red fluorescent protein mRFP1 derived from a coral species.
Credit: Lynette Brownfield and David Twell, University of Leicester

An enigma – unique to flowering plants – has been solved by researchers from the University of Leicester (UK) and POSTECH, South Korea.

The discovery is reported in the journal Nature on 23 October 2008.

Scientists already knew that flowering plants, unlike animals require not one, but two sperm cells for successful fertilisation.

The mystery of this 'double fertilization' process was how each single pollen grain could produce 'twin' sperm cells. One to join with the egg cell to produce the embryo, and the other to join with a second cell in the ovary to produce the endosperm, a nutrient-rich tissue, inside the seed.

Double fertilisation is essential for fertility and seed production in flowering plants so increased understanding of the process is important.

Now Professor David Twell, of the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester and Professor Hong Gil Nam of POSTECH, South Korea report the discovery of a gene that has a critical role in allowing precursor reproductive cells to divide to form twin sperm cells.

Professor Twell said: "This collaborative project has produced results that unlock a key element in a botanical puzzle.

The key discovery is that this gene, known as FBL17, is required to trigger the destruction of another protein that inhibits cell division. The FBL17 gene therefore acts as a switch within the young pollen grain to trigger precursor cells to divide into twin sperm cells.

"Plants with a mutated version of this gene produce pollen grains with a single sperm cell instead of the pair of sperm that are required for successful double fertilization.

"Interestingly, the process employed by plants to control sperm cell reproduction was found to make use of an ancient mechanism found in yeast and in animals involving the selective destruction of inhibitor proteins that otherwise block the path to cell division.

"Removal of these blocks promotes the production of a twin sperm cell cargo in each pollen grain and thus ensures successful reproduction in flowering plants.

"This discovery is a significant step forward in uncovering the mysteries of flowering plant reproduction. This new knowledge will be useful in understanding the evolutionary origins of flowering plant reproduction and may be used by plant breeders to control crossing behaviour in crop plants.

"In the future such information may become increasingly important as we strive to breed superior crops that maintain yield in a changing climate. Given that flowering plants dominate the vegetation of our planet and that we are bound to them for our survival, it is heartening that we are one step closer to understanding their reproductive secrets."

Researchers at the University of Leicester are continuing their investigation into plant reproduction. Further research underway in Professor Twell's laboratory is already beginning to reveal the answers to secrets about how the pair of sperm cells produced within each pollen grain aquires the ability to fertilize.

Prof Twell's work, in the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester is financially supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Biologists Discover Gene Behind 'Plant Sex Mystery'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081022135427.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2008, October 23). Biologists Discover Gene Behind 'Plant Sex Mystery'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081022135427.htm
University of Leicester. "Biologists Discover Gene Behind 'Plant Sex Mystery'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081022135427.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins