Male gametes and fertilization in angiosperms

R. B. Knox, S. Y. Zee, C. Blomstedt, M. B. Singh

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Double fertilization appears to have evolved as a product of change directly related to an accelerated rate and timing of reproduction. In this review, the focus is on the angiosperm male gametophyte, where changes include a reduction in the number of mitoses, establishment of the male germ unit and involvement of both members of the pair of sperm cells in reproduction. The organization of the generative cell during mitosis indicates that there may be basic similarities between this process in plant and animal cells. The microtubular organization of generative cells alters after isoiation. However, mitosis in Allamanda, proceeds as usual during in vitro culture. The presence of actin microfilaments within generative cells has previously been shown in Rhododendron and here we provide further evidence that actin microfilaments are indeed present in generative cells. Two different kinds of intermediate‐filament‐like systems (IFS) are present in the generative cells of Allamanda: one in the cytoplasm and the other closely associated with the surface domain of chromosomes, both identified by the use of monoclonal antibodies. This is the first report of an IFS existing in the vegetative nucleus of pollen. Two alternate views have been proposed for the involvement of sperm cells in double fertilization of angiosperms. First, the chance hypothesis assumes that sperm fusions with the egg and central cell are random interactions. Second, the specific receptor hypothesis proposes that one of the pair of sperm (the true male gamete) is destined to fuse specifically with the egg. Support for this latter view has come from demonstrations of sperm cell dimorphism, both in size and content of mitochondria and plastids. The production of monoclonal antibodies which bind to surface domains on the reproductive cells of higher and lower plants, and specifically to the cytoplasm of generative and sperm cells also suggest that directed fertilization occurs. Recently, the existence of translatable mRNA pools within the generative and sperm cells indicates that, with the use of recent technological advances such as the polymerase chain reaction, the potential exists to identify male gamete‐specific genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-694
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Actin microfilaments
  • double fertilization
  • generative cell
  • intermediate filaments
  • microtubules
  • sperm cell

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