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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Callose plug deposition patterns vary in pollen tubes of Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes and tomato species

Peng Qin12, Dylan Ting1, Andrew Shieh1 and Sheila McCormick1*

Author Affiliations

1 Plant Gene Expression Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service and Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California at Berkeley, Albany, CA, 94710, USA

2 Current address: Rice Research Institute of Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu Wenjiang, Sichuan, 611130, China

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:178  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-178

Published: 3 October 2012



The pollen grain contains the male gametophyte that extends a pollen tube that grows through female tissues in order to deliver sperm to the embryo sac for double fertilization. Growing pollen tubes form periodic callose plugs that are thought to block off the older parts of the tube and maintain the cytoplasm near the growing tip. The morphology of callose plugs and the patterns of their deposition were previously shown to vary among species, but variation within a species had not been examined. We therefore systematically examined callose plug deposition in Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes, tested for heritability using reciprocal crosses between ecotypes that had differing deposition patterns, and investigated the relationship between callose plugs and pollen tube growth rate. We also surveyed callose plug deposition patterns in different species of tomato.


We used in vitro grown pollen tubes of 14 different A. thaliana ecotypes and measured the distance from the pollen grain pore to the first callose plug (termed first interval). This distance varied among Arabidopsis ecotypes and in some cases even within an ecotype. Pollen tubes without a callose plug were shorter than those with a callose plug, and tubes with a callose plug near the grain were, on average, longer than those with the first callose plug farther from the grain. Variations in the first callose plug position were also observed between different species of tomato.


We showed that the position of the first callose plug varied among Arabidopsis ecotypes and in tomato species, and that callose plug deposition patterns were heritable. These findings lay a foundation for mapping genes that regulate callose plug deposition or that determine pollen tube length or growth rate.

Callose plugs; Pollen tube growth; Sperm