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Evolutionary origins of pectin methylesterase genes associated with novel aspects of angiosperm pollen tube walls

Wallace, Simon, Williams, Joseph H.
Biochemical and biophysical research communications 2017 v.487 pp. 509-516
Gymnospermae, Nymphaea odorata, eggs, esterification, evolution, gene expression, genes, pectinesterase, pectins, pollen, pollen tubes, spermatozoa, tissues, vascular plants
The early evolution of angiosperms was marked by a number of innovations of the reproductive cycle including an accelerated fertilization process involving faster transport of sperm to the egg via a pollen tube. Fast pollen tube growth rates in angiosperms are accompanied by a hard shank-soft tip pollen tube morphology. A critical actor in that morphology is the wall-embedded enzyme pectin methylesterase (PME), which in type II PMEs is accompanied by a co-transcribed inhibitor, PMEI. PMEs convert the esterified pectic tip wall to a stiffer state in the subapical flank by pectin de-esterification. It is hypothesized that rapid and precise targeting of PME activity was gained with the origin of type II genes, which are derived and have only expanded since the origin of vascular plants. Pollen-active PMEs have yet to be reported in early-divergent angiosperms or gymnosperms. Gene expression studies in Nymphaea odorata found transcripts from four type II VGD1-like and 16 type I AtPPME1-like homologs that were more abundant in pollen and pollen tubes than in vegetative tissues. The near full-length coding sequence of one type II PME (NoPMEII-1) included at least one PMEI domain. The identification of possible VGD1 homologs in an early-diverging angiosperm suggests that the refined control of PMEs that mediate de-esterification of pectins near pollen tube tips is a conserved feature across angiosperms. The recruitment of type II PMEs into a pollen tube elongation role in angiosperms may represent a key evolutionary step in the development of faster growing pollen tubes.