Plasma membrane H +-ATPases sustain pollen tube growth and fertilization

Nat Commun. 2020 May 14;11(1):2395. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16253-1.


Pollen tubes are highly polarized tip-growing cells that depend on cytosolic pH gradients for signaling and growth. Autoinhibited plasma membrane proton (H+) ATPases (AHAs) have been proposed to energize pollen tube growth and underlie cell polarity, however, mechanistic evidence for this is lacking. Here we report that the combined loss of AHA6, AHA8, and AHA9 in Arabidopsis thaliana delays pollen germination and causes pollen tube growth defects, leading to drastically reduced fertility. Pollen tubes of aha mutants had reduced extracellular proton (H+) and anion fluxes, reduced cytosolic pH, reduced tip-to-shank proton gradients, and defects in actin organization. Furthermore, mutant pollen tubes had less negative membrane potentials, substantiating a mechanistic role for AHAs in pollen tube growth through plasma membrane hyperpolarization. Our findings define AHAs as energy transducers that sustain the ionic circuit defining the spatial and temporal profiles of cytosolic pH, thereby controlling downstream pH-dependent mechanisms essential for pollen tube elongation, and thus plant fertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Germination / physiology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mutation
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Pollen Tube / growth & development*
  • Pollination / physiology*
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / genetics
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism*
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases