Effects of water stress on male gametophyte development in plants
Male reproductive development in plants is highly sensitive to water deficit during meiosis in the microspore mother cells. Water deficit during this stage inhibits further development of microspores or pollen grains, causing male sterility. Female fertility, in contrast, is quite immune to stress. The injury is apparently not caused by desiccation of the reproductive tissue, but is an indirect consequence of water deficit in the vegetative organs, such as leaves. The mechanism underlying this stress response probably involves a long-distance signaling molecule, originating in the organs that undergo water loss, and affecting fertility in the reproductive tissue, which conserves its water status. Much research has been focused on the involvement of abscisic acid in this regard, but the most recent evidence tends to reject a role for this hormone in the induction of male sterility. Stress-induced arrest of male gametophyte development is preceded by disturbances in carbohydrate metabolism and distribution within anthers, and an inhibition of the key sugar-cleaving enzyme, acid invertase. Since invertase gene expression can be modulated by sugar concentration, it is possible that decreased sugar delivery to reproductive tissue upon inhibition of photosynthesis by stress is the signal that triggers metabolic lesions leading to failure of male gametophyte development.
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