Gnetum possesses morphologically bisexual but functionally unisexual reproductive structures that exude sugary pollination drops to attract insects. Previous studies have revealed that the arborescent species (G. gnemon L.) and the lianoid species (G. luofuense C.Y.Cheng) possess different pollination syndromes. This study compared the proteome in the pollination drops of these two species using label-free quantitative techniques. The transcriptomes of fertile reproductive units (FRUs) and sterile reproductive units (SRUs) for each species were furthermore compared using Illumina Hiseq sequencing, and integrated proteomic and transcriptomic analyses were subsequently performed. Our results show that the differentially expressed proteins between FRUs and SRUs were involved in carbohydrate metabolism, the biosynthesis of amino acids and ovule defense. In addition, the differentially expressed genes between the FRUs and SRUs (e.g., MADS-box genes) were engaged in reproductive development and the formation of pollination drops. The integrated protein-transcript analyses revealed that FRUs and their exudates were relatively conservative while the SRUs and their exudates were more diverse, probably functioning as pollinator attractants. The evolution of reproductive organs appears to be synchronized with changes in the pollination drop proteome of Gnetum, suggesting that insect-pollinated adaptations are not restricted to angiosperms but also occur in gymnosperms.
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