A microsystem-based assay for studying pollen tube guidance in plant reproduction

A. K. Yetisen, L. Jiang, J. R. Cooper, Y. Qin, R. Palanivelu, Y. Zohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We present a novel microsystem-based assay to assess and quantify pollen tube behavior in response to pistil tissues. During plant reproduction, signals from female tissues (pistils) guide the sperm-carrying pollen tube to the egg cell to achieve fertilization and initiate seed development. Existing pollen tube guidance bioassays are performed in an isotropically diffusive environment (for example, a semi in vivo assay in petri dishes) instead of anisotropically diffusive conditions required to characterize guidance signal gradients. Lack of a sensitive pollen tube guidance bioassay has therefore compounded the difficulties of identifying and characterizing the guidance signals that are likely produced in minute quantities by the ovules. We therefore developed a novel microsystem-based assay that mimics the in vivo micro-environment of ovule fertilization by pollen tubes in the model research plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In this microdevice, the pollen tube growth rate, length and ovule targeting frequencies were similar to those obtained using a semi in vivo plate assay. As a direct measure of the microdevice's utility in monitoring pollen tube guidance, we demonstrated that in this device, pollen tubes preferentially enter chambers with unfertilized ovules, suggesting that the pollen tubes sense the concentration gradient and respond to the chemoattractants secreted by unfertilized ovules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054018
JournalJournal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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