The exine of the pollen wall shows an intricate pattern, primarily comprising sporopollenin, a polymer of fatty acids and phenolic compounds. A series of enzymes synthesize sporopollenin precursors in tapetal cells, and the precursors are transported from the tapetum to the pollen surface. However, the mechanisms underlying the transport of sporopollenin precursors remain elusive. Here, we provide evidence that strongly suggests that the Arabidopsis ABC transporter ABCG26/WBC27 is involved in the transport of sporopollenin precursors. Two independent mutations at ABCG26 coding region caused drastic decrease in seed production. This defect was complemented by expression of ABCG26 driven by its native promoter. The severely reduced fertility of the abcg26 mutants was caused by a failure to produce mature pollen, observed initially as a defect in pollen-wall development. The reticulate pattern of the exine of wild-type microspores was absent in abcg26 microspores at the vacuolate stage, and the vast majority of the mutant pollen degenerated thereafter. ABCG26 was expressed specifically in tapetal cells at the early vacuolate stage of pollen development. It showed high co-expression with genes encoding enzymes required for sporopollenin precursor synthesis, i.e. CYP704B1, ACOS5, MS2 and CYP703A2. Similar to two other mutants with defects in pollen-wall deposition, abcg26 tapetal cells accumulated numerous vesicles and granules. Taken together, these results suggest that ABCG26 plays a crucial role in the transfer of sporopollenin lipid precursors from tapetal cells to anther locules, facilitating exine formation on the pollen surface.
© 2010 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.