Although most people think of pollen merely as an allergen, its true biological function is to facilitate sexual reproduction in flowering plants. The angiosperm pollen grain, upon arriving at a receptive stigma, germinates, producing a tube that extends through the style to deliver its cargo to the ovule, thereby fertilizing the egg, and completing the life cycle of the plant. The pollen tube grows rapidly, exclusively at its tip, and produces a cell that is highly polarized both in its outward shape and its internal cytoplasmic organization. Recent studies reveal that the growth oscillates in rate. Many underlying physiological processes, including ionic fluxes and energy levels, also oscillate with the same periodicity as the growth rate, but usually not with the same phase. Current research focuses on these phase relationships in an attempt to decipher their hierarchical sequence and to provide a physiological explanation for the factors that govern pollen tube growth.
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Vol. 57 • No. 10