Marcia, M., et al. Characterization of feruloyl esterases in maize pollen, Planta. 1-20
A critical step in maize (Zea mays) seed production involves fertilization of the ovule by pollen, a process that relies on ability of the pollen tube to grow through the highly structured and feruloylated arabinoxylan/cellulose-rich tissue of the silk and stigma. It is known that different cell wall hydrolases are present on the surface of pollen. An important hydrolase reported to date is an endo-xylanase (ZmXYN1). We report presence and characterization of another hydrolase, ferulic acid esterase (FAE), in maize pollen. Using a combination of biochemical approaches, these FAEs were partially purified and characterized with respect to their biochemical properties and putative sequences. Maize pollen FAEs were shown to be expressed early during pollen development, to release significant amounts of both monomeric and dimeric ferulates esterified from maize silks and other grass cell walls, and to synergize with an externally applied fungal endo-1,4-β-xylanase on the release of cell wall ferulates and diferulates. Preliminary analysis of maize silk cell walls following pollination, showed a significant reduction of esterified ferulates up to 96 h following pollination, compared to unpollinated silks. These results suggest that maize pollen FAEs may play an important biological role in pollen fertilization and possibly in seed production.