• Gramineae pollen;
  • carbohydrates;
  • desiccation tolerance;
  • liposomes;
  • phospholipids

Abstract. Two pollen species from the Gramineae family were investigated as to their differential sensitivity to desiccation. Germination in vivo ceased to occur after previous drying to 7–8% moisture content in Zea mays and 3% in Pennisetum typhoides. The reduced vitality coincided with extensive membrane damage, as evidenced by the considerable leakage of fluorescein and K+ from the prehumidified grains into liquid media. Further experiments were undertaken to investigate the basis for this interspecific difference: (1) phospholipid analyses revealed little difference in composition and content both before and after drying; (2) free fatty acid contents increased in both species upon drying but levels were generally low; and (3) sucrose was the sole soluble carbohydrate found in both species. Fresh maize pollen contained 5% sucrose, as compared to 14% in Pennisetum pollen. During slow drying (8h) this level went up to 12% and 17%, respectively. Drying corn pollen in the cold (2°C), or at high rate, limited sucrose levels and affected the resistance to drying. The authors conclude that survival of dehydration is correlated with the presence of sucrose. Finally, they tested the ability of sucrose to preserve dry liposomes prepared from phospholipids purified from the two species. When liposomes were dried in the presence of sucrose, fusion and leakage could largely be prevented at mass ratio's of sugar to lipid of > 4. Trehalose was also effective but myo-inositol was not. No species differences were observed. The authors suggest that the presence of sucrose is a key factor in preserving membranes in dry pollen.