- Identify the structures involved in reproduction of angiosperms
Male Gametophyte: The Pollen Grain
The male gametophyte develops and reaches maturity in an immature anther. In a plant’s male reproductive organs, development of pollen takes place in a structure known as the microsporangium (Figure 1). The microsporangia, which are usually bilobed, are pollen sacs in which the microspores develop into pollen grains. These are found in the anther, which is at the end of the stamen—the long filament that supports the anther.
Within the microsporangium, each of the microspore mother cells divides by meiosis to give rise to four microspores, each of which will ultimately form a pollen grain (Figure 2). An inner layer of cells, known as the tapetum, provides nutrition to the developing microspores and contributes key components to the pollen wall. Mature pollen grains contain two cells: a generative cell and a pollen tube cell. The generative cell is contained within the larger pollen tube cell. Upon germination, the tube cell forms the pollen tube through which the generative cell migrates to enter the ovary. During its transit inside the pollen tube, the generative cell divides to form two male gametes (sperm cells). Upon maturity, the microsporangia burst, releasing the pollen grains from the anther.
Each pollen grain has two coverings: the exine (thicker, outer layer) and the intine. The exine contains sporopollenin, a complex waterproofing substance supplied by the tapetal cells. Sporopollenin allows the pollen to survive under unfavorable conditions and to be carried by wind, water, or biological agents without undergoing damage.
Female Gametophyte: The Embryo Sac
While the details may vary between species, the overall development of the female gametophyte has two distinct phases. First, in the process of megasporogenesis, a single cell in the diploid megasporangium—an area of tissue in the ovules—undergoes meiosis to produce four megaspores, only one of which survives. During the second phase, megagametogenesis, the surviving haploid megaspore undergoes mitosis to produce an eight-nucleate, seven-cell female gametophyte, also known as the megagametophyte or embryo sac. Two of the nuclei—the polar nuclei—move to the equator and fuse, forming a single, diploid central cell. This central cell later fuses with a sperm to form the triploid endosperm. Three nuclei position themselves on the end of the embryo sac opposite the micropyle and develop into the antipodal cells, which later degenerate. The nucleus closest to the micropyle becomes the female gamete, or egg cell, and the two adjacent nuclei develop into synergid cells (Figure 3). The synergids help guide the pollen tube for successful fertilization, after which they disintegrate. Once fertilization is complete, the resulting diploid zygote develops into the embryo, and the fertilized ovule forms the other tissues of the seed.
A double-layered integument protects the megasporangium and, later, the embryo sac. The integument will develop into the seed coat after fertilization and protect the entire seed. The ovule wall will become part of the fruit. The integuments, while protecting the megasporangium, do not enclose it completely, but leave an opening called the micropyle. The micropyle allows the pollen tube to enter the female gametophyte for fertilization.
An embryo sac is missing the synergids. What specific impact would you expect this to have on fertilization?
- The pollen tube will be unable to form.
- The pollen tube will form but will not be guided toward the egg.
- Fertilization will not occur because the synergid is the egg.
- Fertilization will occur but the embryo will not be able to grow.