The impact of environmental stress on male reproductive development in plants: biological processes and molecular mechanisms



In plants, male reproductive development is extremely sensitive to adverse climatic environments and (a)biotic stress. Upon exposure to stress, male gametophytic organs often show morphological, structural and metabolic alterations that typically lead to meiotic defects or premature spore abortion and male reproductive sterility. Depending on the type of stress involved (e.g. heat, cold, drought) and the duration of stress exposure, the underlying cellular defect is highly variable and either involves cytoskeletal alterations, tapetal irregularities, altered sugar utilization, aberrations in auxin metabolism, accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS; oxidative stress) or the ectopic induction of programmed cell death (PCD). In this review, we present the critically stress-sensitive stages of male sporogenesis (meiosis) and male gametogenesis (microspore development), and discuss the corresponding biological processes involved and the resulting alterations in male reproduction. In addition, this review also provides insights into the molecular and/or hormonal regulation of the environmental stress sensitivity of male reproduction and outlines putative interaction(s) between the different processes involved.