The fertilization process of plants is governed by different kinds of cell-cell interactions. In higher plants, these interactions are required both for recognition of the pollen grain by the female reproductive system and to direct the growth of the pollen tube inside the ovary. Despite many years of study, the signaling mechanisms that guide the pollen tube toward its target, the ovule, are largely unknown. Two distinct types of principles, mechanical and chemotropic, have been suggested to account for the directed growth of the pollen tube. The first of these two types of models implies that the guidance of the pollen tube depends on the architecture and chemical properties of the female reproductive tissues, whereas the latter suggests that the ovule provides a signal for the target-directed growth of the pollen tube. To examine such a role for the ovules, we analyzed the growth path of pollen tubes in mutants defective in ovule development in Arabidopsis. The results presented here provide unique in vivo evidence for an ovule-derived, long-range activity controlling pollen tube guidance. A morphological comparison of the ovule mutants used in this study indicates that within the ovule, the haploid embryo sac plays an important role in this long-range signaling process.
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