The role of polyamines (PAs) in plant reproduction, especially pollen development and germination has been demonstrated in several higher plants. The aim of the present research was to investigate PA involvement in pollen development and germination in dioecious kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa). Differences in PA content, level and gene expression for PA biosynthetic enzymes, and the effect of PA biosynthetic inhibitors were found during pollen development (or abortion in female flowers). Whereas PAs, especially spermidine (Spd), remained high throughout the development of functional pollen, the levels collapsed by the last stage of development of sterile pollen. Mature and functional pollen from male-fertile anthers showed S-adenosyl methionine decarboxylase activity (SAMDC; involved in Spd biosynthesis) throughout microgametogenesis, with high levels of soluble SAMDC found starting from the late uninucleate microspore stage. Soluble SAMDC was absent in male-sterile anthers. Arginine decarboxylase [ADC; for putrescine (Put) biosynthesis] showed little difference in functional vs sterile pollen; ornithine decarboxylase [ODC; also for putrescine (Put) biosynthesis] was present only in sterile pollen. Ultrastructural studies of aborted pollen grains in male-sterile flowers showed that cytoplasmic residues near the intine contain vesicles, extruding towards the pollen wall. Very high SAMDC activity was found in the wall residues of the aborted pollen. The combined application in planta of competitive inhibitors of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (MGBG) and of spermidine synthase (CHA), or of D-arginine (inhibitor of Put synthesis), to male-fertile plants led to abnormal pollen grains with reduced viability. The importance of PAs during male-fertile pollen germination was also found. In fact, PA biosynthetic enzymes (ADC and, mainly, SAMDC) were active early during pollen hydration and germination in vitro. Two different SAMDC gene transcripts were expressed in germinating pollen together with a lower level of ADC transcript. Gene expression preceded PA enzyme activity. The application of PA inhibitors in planta drastically reduced pollen germination. Thus, low free Spd can lead either to degeneration or loss of functionality of kiwifruit pollen grains.
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