Sexual reproduction in flowering plants involves intimate contact and continuous interactions between the growing pollen tube and the female reproductive structures. These interactions can trigger responses in distal regions of the flower well ahead of fertilization. While pollination-induced petal senescence has been studied extensively, less is known about how pollination is perceived at a distance in the ovary, and how specific this response is to various pollen genotypes. To address this question, we performed a global transcriptomic analysis in the ovary of a wild potato species, Solanum chacoense, at various time points following compatible, incompatible, and heterospecific pollinations. In all cases, pollen tube penetration in the stigma was initially perceived as a wounding aggression. Then, as the pollen tubes grew in the style, a growing number of genes became specific to each pollen genotype. Functional classification analyses revealed sharp differences in the response to compatible and heterospecific pollinations. For instance, the former induced reactive oxygen species (ROS)-related genes while the latter affected genes associated to ethylene signaling. In contrast, incompatible pollination remained more akin to a wound response. Our analysis reveals that every pollination type produces a specific molecular signature generating diversified and specific responses at a distance in the ovary in preparation for fertilization.
Keywords: long distance signaling; pollen-associated molecular signatures; pollen–pistil interactions; postmating isolation barriers.