Changes in growth and cell wall extensibility of maize silks following pollination

Nuwan U.Sella Kapu, Daniel J. Cosgrove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In response to pollination maize silks undergo an accelerated process of senescence which involves an inhibition of elongation. To gain insight into the mechanism underlying this growth response, the relationships among silk elongation kinetics, cell wall biophysical properties, pollen tube growth, and expansin protein abundance were investigated. The inhibition of silk elongation became apparent beyond 12h after pollination. Pollinated walls were less responsive in assays of extension induced by pollen β-expansin. Expansin protein abundance and endogenous expansin activity were not considerably reduced after pollination. Silk wall plastic compliance was significantly reduced 6h post-pollination and beyond, suggesting that the wall undergoes structural modifications leading to its rigidification in response to pollination. The reduction in the plastic compliance occurred locally and progressively, shortly after pollen tubes traversed through a region of silk. Though numerous pollen grains germinated and initiated pollen tubes at the silk tip, the density of pollen tubes gradually declined along the length of the silk and only 1-2 reached the ovary even 24h after pollination. These results support the notion that pollination-induced cell wall rigidification plays multiple roles in maize reproduction, including inhibition of silk growth and prevention of polyspermy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4097-4107
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number14
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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