The SIDECAR POLLEN gene encodes a microspore-specific LOB/AS2 domain protein required for the correct timing and orientation of asymmetric cell division


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Cellular patterning and differentiation in plants depend on the balance of asymmetric and symmetric divisions. Patterning of the male gametophyte (pollen grains) in flowering plants requires asymmetric division of the microspore followed by a symmetric division of the germ cell to produce three highly differentiated cells: a single vegetative cell and two sperm cells. In Arabidopsis sidecar pollen (scp) mutants a proportion of microspores first divide symmetrically, and then go on to produce ‘four-celled’ pollen with an extra vegetative cell; however, details of the timing and origin of phenotypic defects in scp and the identity of the SCP gene have remained obscure. Comparative analysis of the original hypomorphic scp-1 allele and a T-DNA-induced null allele, scp-2, revealed that in the absence of SCP, microspores undergo normal nuclear positioning, but show delayed entry into mitosis, increased cell expansion and alterations in the orientation of nuclear division. We identified the SCP gene to encode a male gametophyte-specific LATERAL ORGAN BOUNDARIES DOMAIN/ASYMMETRIC LEAVES 2-like (LBD/ASL) protein that is expressed in microspore nuclei in a tightly regulated phase-specific manner. Therefore, our study demonstrates that the correct patterning of male gametophyte depends on the activity of a nuclear LBD/ASL family protein that is essential for the correct timing and orientation of asymmetric microspore division.