Pollination induces many physiological responses in the flower, including deterioration and death in specific pistil cell types. It is shown here that within the style of tobacco, pollination-induced cell deterioration was restricted to the transmitting tissue while the surrounding cortical tissue was not affected. It was distinct from general senescence since exogenously applying the senescence-inducing hormone ethylene, or its precursor aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC), to the flower or the pistil induced overall deterioration in the entire flower. Furthermore, both pollen tube growth and ethylene action were needed for the entire spectrum of cellular changes associated with this pollination-induced transmitting tissue deterioration process. It is also shown that pollination-induced mRNA poly(A) tail-shortening for at least three major classes of transmitting tissue-specific mRNAs. As is commonly observed for poly(A) tail-shortened mRNAs, the levels of two of these three mRNA classes decline after pollination. On the other hand, the third class of mRNAs, transmitting tissue-specific (TTS) mRNAs, was maintained at a very high level subsequent to pollination, even after substantial poly(A)-tail shortening. TTS mRNAs encode a pollen tube growth-promoting and -attracting protein needed for optimal in vivo pollen tube growth. The specific preservation of TTS mRNAs in the deteriorating transmitting tissue cells suggests that these cells can distinguish molecules needed in the pollinated styles from those that are dispensable, and protect them from degradation. It is suggested that the pollination-induced mRNA poly(A) tail-shortening and cell death are programmed processes suited to the post-pollination transmitting tissue environment. Results showing that ACC is a candidate signal molecule for the pollination-induced mRNA-shortening which is accentuated by ethylene and mediated via a protein phosphorylation-dependent signal transduction pathway are also presented.