Overcoming hybridization barriers by the secretion of the maize pollen tube attractant ZmEA1 from Arabidopsis ovules

Curr Biol. 2012 Jul 10;22(13):1194-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.04.061. Epub 2012 May 24.


A major goal of plant reproduction research is to understand and overcome hybridization barriers so that the gene pool of crop plants can be increased and improved upon. After successful pollen germination on a receptive stigma, the nonmotile sperm cells of flowering plants are transported via the pollen tube (PT) to the egg apparatus for the achievement of double fertilization. The PT path is controlled by various hybridization mechanisms probably involving a larger number of species-specific molecular interactions. The egg-apparatus-secreted polymorphic peptides ZmEA1 in maize and LURE1 and LURE2 in Torenia fournieri as well as TcCRP1 in T. concolor were shown to be required for micropylar PT guidance, the last step of the PT journey. We report here that ZmEA1 attracts maize PTs in vitro and arrests their growth at higher concentrations. Furthermore, it binds to the subapical region of maize PT tips in a species-preferential manner. To overcome hybridization barriers at the level of gametophytic PT guidance, we expressed ZmEA1 in Arabidopsis synergid cells. Secreted ZmEA1 enabled Arabidopsis ovules to guide maize PT in vitro in a species-preferential manner to the micropylar opening of the ovule. These results demonstrate that the egg-apparatus-controlled reproductive-isolation barrier of PT guidance can be overcome even between unrelated plant families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Ovule / cytology
  • Ovule / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Pollen Tube / genetics*
  • Pollen Tube / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Reproductive Isolation*
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • Plant Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins