, Volume 234, Issue 2, pp 217-227
Date: 26 Jun 2011

Pollen vacuoles and their significance

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Vacuoles of several types can be observed in pollen throughout its development. Their physiological significance reflects the complexity of the biological process leading to functional pollen grains. Vacuolisation always occurs during pollen development but when ripe pollen is shed the extensive translucent vacuoles present in the vegetative parts in previous stages are absent. Vacuole functions vary according to developmental stage but in ripe pollen they are mainly storage sites for reserves. Vacuoles cause pollen to increase in size by water accumulation and therefore confer some degree of resistance to water stress. Modalities of vacuolisation occur in pollen in the same manner as in other tissues. In most cases, autophagic vacuoles degrade organelles, as in the microspore after meiosis, and can be regarded as cytoplasm clean-up following the transition from the diploid sporophytic to the haploid gametophytic state. This also occurs in the generative cell but not in sperm cells. Finally, vacuoles have a function when microspores are used for pollen embryogenesis in biotechnology being targets for stress induction and afterwards contributing to cytoplasmic rearrangement in competent microspores.