Dynamic, high precision targeting of growth modulating agents is able to trigger pollen tube growth reorientation



The pollen tube is the most rapidly growing cell in the plant kingdom and has the function to deliver the sperm cells for fertilization. The growing tip region of the cell behaves in a chemotropic manner to respond to the guidance cues emitted by the pistil and the female gametophyte, but how it perceives and responds to these directional triggers is virtually unknown. Quantitative assessment of chemotropic behavior can greatly be enhanced by the administration of pharmacological or other biologically active agents at subcellular precision, which is a technical challenge when the target area moves as it grows. We developed a laminar flow based microfluidic device that allows for continuous administration of two different solutions with a movable interface that permits the dynamic targeting of the growing pollen tube apex over prolonged periods of time. Asymmetric administration of calcium revealed that rather than following the highest calcium concentration as would be expected with simple chemotropic behavior, the pollen tube of Camellia targets an optimal concentration suggesting the presence of two superimposed mechanisms. Subcellular application of pectin methyl esterase (PME), an enzyme that modifies the growth behavior by rigidifying the pollen tube cell wall, caused the tube to turn away from the agent – providing important evidence for a previously proposed conceptual model of the growth mechanism.