Pollen tube growth: coping with mechanical obstacles involves the cytoskeleton
Cellular growth and movement require both the control of direction and the physical capacity to generate forces. In animal cells directional control and growth forces are generated by the polymerization of and traction between the elements of the cytoskeleton. Whether actual forces generated by the cytoskeleton play a role in plant cell growth is largely unknown as the interplay between turgor and cell wall is considered to be the predominant structural feature in plant cell morphogenesis. We investigated the mechano-structural role of the cytoskeleton in the invasive growth of pollen tubes. These cells elongate rapidly by tip growth and have the ability to penetrate the stigmatic and stylar tissues in order to drill their way to the ovule. We used agents interfering with cytoskeletal functioning, latrunculin B and oryzalin, in combination with mechanical in vitro assays. While microtubule degradation had no significant effect on the pollen tubes’ capacity to invade a mechanical obstacle, latrunculin B decreased the pollen tubes’ ability to elongate in stiffened growth medium and to penetrate an obstacle. On the other hand, the ability to maintain a certain growth direction in vitro was affected by the degradation of microtubules but not actin filaments. To find out whether both cytoskeletal elements share functions or interact we used both drugs in combination resulting in a dramatic synergistic response. Fluorescent labeling revealed that the integrity of the microtubule cytoskeleton depends on the presence of actin filaments. In contrast, actin filaments seemed independent of the configuration of microtubules.