Pathogen-fighting proteins spice up plants' sex lives

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Washington, June 2 (ANI): Pathogen-fighting proteins play a role in the "sex life" during the fertilization process of plants, researchers have found.

The finding will be published next week in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology.

The research team, led by Dr. Thomas Dresselhaus from the Regensburg Center of Biochemistry and Biophysics, showed that special forms of defensins are released by the egg apparatus in maize to open up potassium-ion channels in the male partner - the pollen tube - resulting in an explosive release of male sperm cells. This process is a pre-requisite for the fertilization that follows.

The findings led to the assumption that the first flowering plants that came into being about 170 million years ago adapted a pathogen-fighting mechanism to promote interaction between male and female cells and release sperm cells for fertilization.

The results shed a completely new light on the evolution of processes necessary for the fertilization of flowering plants, and may lead to new possibilities for overcoming the barrier between crops that cannot yet be crossed. (ANI)

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