The sporophytic tissue of the anther and, in particular, the tapetum, a cell layer surrounding the pollen sac, is know to be essential for the production of pollen. The isolation and characterization of the gene 92B from tomato that encodes an extracellular glycine rich protein (GRP) has been used to further elucidate the role of the tapetum in pollen development. RNA from the 92B gene accumulates exclusively in the tapetum. Polyclonal antibodies raised against the 92B GRP detect four proteins in stamens with microspores beginning meiosis. In pollen extracts, the antibodies detect a single protein. Expression of the tomato 92B gene in transgenic tobacco indicates that the four protein products are derived from only the 92B gene. The 92B GRP is localized to the tapetum, the callose wall of microspore mother cells, the exine (outer wall) of mature pollen, and orbicules. Orbicules are globular bodies derived from tapetal material that form on the tapetum wall and line the exterior of the pollen sac. Expression of 92B antisense RNA resulted in a significant decrease of 92B RNA and protein levels in transgenic tomatoes. This reduction was correlated with a decrease in pollen germination and an abnormal exine morphology. The function of the 92B protein in pollen development and function will be discussed.
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