J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2015, Vol. 57 ›› Issue (1): 79-92.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.12315

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The pollen tube clear zone: Clues to the mechanism of polarized growth

Peter K. Hepler1* and Lawrence J. Winship2   

  1. 1Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
    2School of Natural Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
  • Received:2014-07-29 Accepted:2014-11-24 Published:2015-01-01
  • About author:*Correspondence: E-mail: hepler@bio.umass.edu


Pollen tubes usually exhibit a prominent region at their apex called the “clear zone” because it lacks light refracting amyloplasts. A robust, long clear zone often associates with fast growing pollen tubes, and thus serves as an indicator of pollen tube health. Nevertheless we do not understand how it arises or how it is maintained. Here we review the structure of the clear zone, and attempt to explain the factors that contribute to its formation. While amyloplasts and vacuolar elements are excluded from the clear zone, virtually all other organelles are present including secretory vesicles, mitochondria, Golgi dictyosomes, and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Secretory vesicles aggregate into an inverted cone appressed against the apical plasma membrane. ER elements move nearly to the extreme apex, whereas mitochondria and Golgi dictyosomes move less far forward. The cortical actin fringe assumes a central position in the control of clear zone formation and maintenance, given its role in generating cytoplasmic streaming. Other likely factors include the tip-focused calcium gradient, the apical pH gradient, the influx of water, and a host of signaling factors (small G-proteins). We think that the clear zone is an emergent property that depends on the interaction of several factors crucial for polarized growth.


Hepler PK, Winship LJ (2015) The pollen tube clear zone: Clues to the mechanism of polarized growth. J Integr Plant Biol 57: 79–92 doi: 10.1111/jipb.12315

Key words: Actin, endoplasmic reticulum, myosin, polarized growth, pollen tube

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