In seed plants, successful fertilization requires correct regulation of pollen tube growth. At germination and during growth, the pollen tube interacts with tissues from the pistil while the pollen tube extends via tip growth. Despite the fact that much research has been devoted to the mechanisms regulating pollen tube growth, many aspects are currently unknown. Previously, we have isolated a pollen-specific gene from tobacco—NTP303—that probably functions during pollen tube growth. NTP303 is part of a family of five members. Its expression is regulated both at the transcriptional and at the translational level. While NTP303 transcripts accumulate to high levels between early bi-cellular and mature pollen stages, NTP303 protein is hardly detectable until germination and pollen tube growth. In order to elucidate the role and function of NTP303 in the pollen tube, we studied the effect of NTP303 gene silencing on pollen function. Therefore, we have transformed tobacco plants with NTP303 co-suppression and anti-sense gene constructs. In these plants, the kanamycin resistance trait—which was linked to the NTP303-silencing gene—was not transmitted through the male gametophyte. This indicated that lowering the transcript level of NTP303 and/or its family members interferes with pollen function. Because we could not find a readily distinguishable phenotype in pollen from the hemizygous anti-sense and co-suppression plants, we rescued the defective pollen to produce doubled haploid plants that were homozygous for the NTP303 anti-sense gene. We found that in pollen from these plants the transcript levels of all NTP303 family members were reduced. Although pollen and pollen tubes from these plants appeared completely normalin vitro, the pollen tubes showed slower growth rates in vivo and arrested in the style before they reached the ovary, so that fertilization failed. These data demonstrate that NTP303 and its family members are essential for normal pollen tube growth and indicate several possible functions.
- ascorbate oxidase
- molecular characterization