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Boosting Autophagy In Sexual Reproduction: A Plant Perspective.

Shanshan Li, He Yan, Wei-Ming Mei, Y. C. Tse, H. Wang
Published 2020 · Biology, Medicine

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The key process of sexual reproduction is the successful fusion of the sperm and egg cell. Distinct from dynamic and flagellated animal sperm cells, higher flowering plant sperm cells are immotile. Therefore, plants have evolved a novel reproductive system to achieve fertilization and generate progenies. Plant sexual reproduction consists of multiple steps mainly including gametophyte development, pollen-pistil recognition, pollen germination, double fertilization and post-fertilization. During reproduction, active production, consumption and recycling of cellular components and energy are critically required to achieve fertilization. However, the underlying machinery of cellular degradation and turnover remains largely unexplored. Autophagy, the major catabolic pathway in eukaryotic cells, participates in regulating multiple aspects of plant activities including abiotic and biotic stress resistance, pathogen response, senescence, nutrient remobilization and plant development. Nevertheless, a key unanswered question is how autophagy regulates plant fertilization and reproduction. Here, we focus on comparing and contrasting autophagy in several key reproductive processes of plant and animal systems to feature important distinctions and highlight future research directions of autophagy in angiosperm reproduction. We further discuss the potential crosstalk between autophagy and programmed cell death that are often considered as two disconnected events in plant sexual reproduction.
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