Plant Romance Real Study Reveals the Romantic Journey of Plant Reproduction

Flowering plants have a ‘romantic journey’ before reproduction, according to a new study published in the journal Nature, Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) have uncovered the complex molecular processes underlying this romantic journey.

Findings in the study, published July 6, document a previously unknown process that serves as a method of communication during fertilization. According to Professor Sheng Luan, chair of the PMB department and senior author on the paper, the exact mechanism for the signaling has previously eluded researchers.

In a statement issued by the University of California, Berkeley, he said that the whole process is now clearer than ever.

Plants send each other molecular ‘love notes’

Sexual reproduction in flowers occurs through pollination, a process involving the transfer of pollen from the stamens of the flower, the male fertilization organ, the stigma on the pistil, to the female reproductive organ. After the pollen grain arrives at the stigma, a pollen tube extends from the pollen grain to the ovule, making it easier for the sperm to transfer to the egg.

According to the statement, Luan said researchers have previously recorded the presence of calcium waves prior to the fertilization process. He said that “they knew that the calcium signal is important but did not know how it was generated”.

The researchers introduced a biosensor to analyze how the calcium wave was generated by the female cell. The biosensor reports calcium levels in a specific cell to look for signals from the male parts that trigger calcium waves.

Luan and his colleagues found that pollen tubes emit several small peptides that can be recognized by peptide receptors on the surface of the female cell. Peptides are short chains of amino acids. The study states that once activated, the peptide receptors recruit a calcium channel that carries the pollen tube to the ovule and initiates fertilization.

Luan pointed out that it can be compared to a delivery service. This is because the small peptide molecule serves as a signal to the female part of the flower, such as a knock on the door letting the female part know that the pollen tube is here.

The calcium waves then cause the pollen tube to burst. Once it is inside the egg the immobilized sperm is released. This ensures a successful fertilization process.

Luan said that in a way, the pollen tube basically commits suicide to release the sperm. Sometimes, the female reproductive cell also dies in order to expose the eggs so they can mate and produce new life, he said.

“It’s a romantic journey to plant breeding,” Luan said.

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The Miraculous Ability of Plants to Communicate Through Molecular Emissions

According to Luan, understanding the complex molecular processes of fertilization can help improve commercial yields in flowering plants. The findings could help researchers break down the intersection barrier. This will potentially open the door to the creation of new hybrid crop species through cross-pollination.

Plants have a miraculous ability to communicate through molecular excretion. Luann said that from an evolutionary standpoint, plants remodel their own molecules uniquely for their own unique communication process.

According to the paper, the calcium channels identified in the study are unique to plants. This suggests that plants devised a way to generate signals that are different from those found in animals.

According to Luann, researchers have studied calcium channels for more than 30 years, uncovering how they confer resistance to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that affects a wide variety of plants.

The biochemical role of calcium channels remained unknown until this study revealed specific channel activity. Luan said that re-creating new channels for plants and animals to communicate in their own way to suit different lifestyles is of general importance to biology.

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