The cell wall is one of the structural key players regulating pollen tube growth, since plant cell expansion depends on an interplay between intracellular driving forces and the controlled yielding of the cell wall. Pectin is the main cell wall component at the growing pollen tube apex. We therefore assessed its role in pollen tube growth and cytomechanics using the enzymes pectinase and pectin methyl esterase (PME). Pectinase activity was able to stimulate pollen germination and tube growth at moderate concentrations whereas higher concentrations caused apical swelling or bursting in Solanum chacoense Bitt. pollen tubes. This is consistent with a modification of the physical properties of the cell wall affecting its extensibility and thus the growth rate, as well as its capacity to withstand turgor. To prove that the enzyme-induced effects were due to the altered cell wall mechanics, we subjected pollen tubes to micro-indentation experiments. We observed that cellular stiffness was reduced and visco-elasticity increased in the presence of pectinase. These are the first mechanical data that confirm the influence of the amount of pectins in the pollen tube cell wall on the physical parameters characterizing overall cellular architecture. Cytomechanical data were also obtained to analyze the role of the degree of pectin methyl-esterification, which is known to exhibit a gradient along the pollen tube axis. This feature has frequently been suggested to result in a gradient of the physical properties characterizing the cell wall and our data provide, for the first time, mechanical support for this concept. The gradient in cell wall composition from apical esterified to distal de-esterified pectins seems to be correlated with an increase in the degree of cell wall rigidity and a decrease of visco-elasticity. Our mechanical approach provides new insights concerning the mechanics of pollen tube growth and the architecture of living plant cells.
Planta – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 21, 2004
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