Anther dehiscence in Lycopersicon esculentum

II. Water relations

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summary

Water tracers have been used to demonstrate the continued functioning of the anther filament during dehiscence in Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. Since Lycopersicon possesses neither nectar nor nectaries dehiscence cannot be related to sugar secretion, as has been demonstrated for other plants. The anthers seem structurally adapted for water conservation and the only transpirational loss of the flower appears to be through the petals. Transpiration from the anthers themselves thus appears not to be involved in regulating dehiscence. Anther opening is preceded by dehydration of the locule and circumstantial evidence indicates it to be an active process, with water being exported through the filaments to the petals along an osmotic gradient generated by starch/sugar interconversion. Measurement of water potential differentials between the petals and anthers points to the mechanism driving this export of water from the anthers. Interestingly, turgor pressure is maintained in the majority of the anther tissues until senescence, remaining remarkably constant against a background of dramatic changes in osmotic potential. These data, combined with the observation that the hydration level of the anthers falls only to 70% at senescence, indicates that dehiscence cannot primarily be a desiccatory process. Some domains within the anther do desiccate, but these are strictly localized. Thus, while hydration levels of living tissues remain independent of the environment, those observed to undergo protoplast degeneration and wall collapse exhibit environmentally-linked hygroscopic absorption. Dehiscence thus emerges as an orchestrated programme of structural and physiological events leading to the desiccation of specific domains of the anthers. These findings are discussed in terms of current models for anther dehiscence in flowering plants.

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