Like seeds, pollen loses most of its water during maturation, entering a state of suspended animation. This allows it to survive its journey from male to female organs of a flower, where it is rehydrated by sugary fluids secreted by the female organ, and springs into life again.
But rehydrating is a dangerous process, one that can kill the pollen grain before it can fertilize the egg if not properly controlled.
New research from the lab of Elizabeth Haswell, PhD, associate professor of biology in Arts&Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, shows how pollen survives the reanimation process. A specialized protein with ancient origins helps the hydrating pollen grain relieve excessive pressure and survive the stressful transition.