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Molecular Communication Between Plant Sexe
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Molecular Communication Between Plant Sexe

July 27, 2010
In flowering plants, reproduction is initiated when the pollen (the male) reaches the pistil (the female). For successful fertilization, the pollen must germinate and form a tube that grows within the pistil in order to reach the ovule. As the pollen tube extends, molecular information is exchanged that determines the compatibility of the pollen and pistil, such as their degree of genetic relatedness. In some plants, a toxin called S-RNase poisons the pollen tube if the pollen and pistil are too closely related, thus preventing inbreeding. Recent studies by Bruce McClure suggest the toxin is sequestered until the compatibility decision is made.

New data suggest that molecular communication between the plant sexes--specifically the pollen of males and pistils of females--is more complicated than originally thought. Plants, like animals, avoid inbreeding to maximize genetic diversity and the associated chances for survival. For decades, scientists have sought to fully understand the plant's molecular system for recognizing and rejecting "self" so that inbreeding does not occur.


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