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Identification of genes may tell how plants recognize pollen

June 29, 2001 -- Researchers have identified the genes that code for proteins that coat the pollen of the flowering plant thaliana. The studies may help scientists understand how plants recognize pollen from their own species.

Understanding the basis of species recognition by plants could enable crop scientists to cross previously incompatible plant species or to prevent genetically engineered plants from crossing with other strains.

The researchers, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute assistant investigator Daphne Preuss at the University of Chicago, reported on the identification of the Arabidopsis pollen coat protein gene families in an article published in the June 29, 2001, issue of the journal Science.

Arabidopsis thaliana is a member of the mustard family that also includes cabbage and radish. Arabidopsis is small, prolific, easily grown and has a rapid life cycle. In December 2000, an international consortium of scientists announced that it had sequenced the entire Arabidopsis genome, an achievement that plant scientists believe will lead to advances in understanding plant physiology.

Earlier experiments by Preuss and others have shown that switching or altering pollen coat proteins can change plants' species specificity or eliminate pollination altogether. "Scientists have understood for quite a while that the pollen coating is critical for launching the process of pollination in a large number of species," said Preuss. "But a comprehensive analysis of all of the pollen protein coat genes in one plant had never been done before, and that's where this work is unique.

The search for the pollen coat protein genes began with work by lead author Jacob A. Mayfield, who extracted and identified all of the Arabidopsis pollen coat proteins. Re
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
28-Jun-2001


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