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Development of the Pollen Tube of Zamia furfuracea (Zamiaceae) and Its Evolutionary Implications

Jung-Sun Choi and William E. Friedman
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 78, No. 4 (Apr., 1991), pp. 544-560
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2445264
Page Count: 17
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Development of the Pollen Tube of Zamia furfuracea (Zamiaceae) and Its Evolutionary Implications
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Abstract

Compared with pollen tubes of conifers, gnetophytes, and angiosperms, the pollen tube of cycads is exclusively a vegetative structure, uninvolved with the siphonogamous conduction of sperm to an egg. The cycad pollen tube appears to function primarily to obtain nutrients for the extensive growth and development of the male gametophyte. Previous workers have suggested that, similar to an haustorial fungus, the cycad pollen tube penetrates the reproductive tissues of the sporophyte by enzymatically destroying nucellar cells. These earlier studies did not document the precise structural relationship between the growing male gametophyte and its "host" tissue, the nucellus. Pollen tube growth, and its relation to the nucellus, was examined in Zamia furfuracea with light and transmission electron microscopy. Following germination, the pollen tube of Zamia furfuracea grows intercellularly through the subepidermal layers of the micropylar apex of the nucellus. Electron micrographs clearly show additional localized outgrowths of the pollen tube penetrating the walls of individual nucellar cells. Intracellular haustorial growth ultimately leads to the complete destruction of each penetrated cell, and appears to induce the degeneration of proximal unpenetrated nucellar cells. This pattern of intracellular penetration of the sporophyte by the male gametophyte in Zamia furfuracea is fundamentally different from what has been described in any other major group of seed plants (where intercellular growth of the male gametophyte is the rule), and suggests that the heterotrophic and tissue-specific relationships that male gametophytes of seed plants have with their host sporophytes are substantially more diverse than had previously been known.

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