Feeling the (pollen tube) force

Last updated: 9 Aug, 2018

If you think about a pollen grain that, after all of that bee-hitchhiking, has landed on the sweet stigma of the right flower, you might think that it has finally arrived. But from the pollen grain’s point of view its active struggle has just started – it now has to penetrate through the stigma tissue to localise and fertilise the ovule.



Most of the research carried out on this part of the pollen grain’s journey has focused on the chemical cues that lure the pollen tube in the direction of the ovule, but as Jan Burri and his co-authors from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich point out in their new paper “a major hurdle for the PT (pollen tube) on its way to the ovule is the physical interaction with the surrounding tissues”.


To measure the forces produced by the pollen tube while it is squeezing its way through the tiny spaces between cells, the researchers set up a new system – the Lab-on-a-Chip, which is made by a series of parallel channels in which the pollen tubes can grow straight, with a micro force sensor placed a few micrometers from the channels’ exit.


Read more about this exciting new technique on the New Phyt blog.


Read the paper: Burri, J. T., Vogler, H. , Läubli, N. F., Hu, C. , Grossniklaus, U. and Nelson, B. J. (2018) Feeling the force: how pollen tubes deal with obstaclesNew Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.15260


Zoe Nemec Venza
Research Collaborator
New Phytologist Trust