Pollen tubes grow by spatially and temporally regulated expansion of new material secreted into the cell wall at the tip of the tube. A complex web of interactions among cellular components, ions and small molecule provides dynamic control of localized expansion and secretion. Cross-correlation studies on oscillating lily (Lilium formosanum
Wallace) pollen tubes showed that an increase in intracellular calcium follows an increase in growth, whereas the increase in the alkaline band and in secretion both anticipate the increase in growth rate. Calcium, as a follower, is unlikely to be a stimulator of growth, whereas the alkaline band, as a leader, may be an activator. To gain further insight herein we reversibly inhibited growth with potassium cyanide (KCN) and followed the re-establishment of calcium, pH and secretion patterns as growth resumed. While KCN markedly slows growth and causes the associated gradients of calcium and pH to sharply decline, its removal allows growth and vital processes to fully recover. The calcium gradient reappears before growth restarts; however, it is preceded by both the alkaline band and secretion, in which the alkaline band is slightly advanced over secretion. Thus the pH gradient, rather than the tip-focused calcium gradient, may regulate pollen tube growth.
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