For pollination to succeed, pollen must carry sperm through a variety of different floral tissues to access the ovules within the pistil. The pistil provides everything the pollen requires for success in this endeavor including distinct guidance cues and essential nutrients that allow the pollen tube to traverse enormous distances along a complex path to the unfertilized ovule. Although the pistil is a great facilitator of pollen function, it can also be viewed as an elaborate barrier that shields ovules from access from inappropriate pollen, such as pollen from other species. Each discrete step taken by pollen tubes en route to the ovules is a potential barrier point to ovule access and waste by inappropriate mates. In this review, we survey the current molecular understanding of how pollination proceeds, and ask to what extent is each step important for mate discrimination. As this field progresses, this synthesis of functional biology and evolutionary studies will provide insight into the molecular basis of the species barriers that maintain the enormous diversity seen in flowering plants.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rob_swanson/5/