Background and AimsPollination is an important process in the life cycle of plants and is the first step in bringing together the male and female gametophytes for plant reproduction. While pollination has been studied for many years, accurate knowledge of the morphological aspects of this process is still far from complete. This study therefore focuses on a morphological characterization of pollination, using time-series image analysis of self-and cross-pollinations in Brassica rapa.MethodsTime-lapse imaging of pollen behaviour during self-and cross-pollinations was recorded for 90 min, at 1 min intervals, using a stereoscopic microscope. Using time-series digital images of pollination, characteristic features of pollen behaviours during self-and cross-pollinations were studied.Key ResultsPollen exhibited various behaviours in both self-and cross-pollinations, and these were classified into six representative patterns: germination, expansion, contraction, sudden contraction, pulsation and no change. It is noteworthy that in 'contraction' pollen grains shrunk within a short period of 30-50 min, and in 'pulsation' repeated expansion and contraction occurred with an interval of 10 min, suggesting that a dehydration system is operating in pollination. All of the six patterns were observed on an individual stigma with both self-and cross-pollinations, and the difference between self-and cross-pollinations was in the ratios of the different behaviours. With regard to water transport to and from pollen grains, this occurred in multiple steps, before, during and after hydration. Thus, pollination is regulated by a combination of multiple components of hydration, rehydration and dehydration systems. ConclusionsRegulated hydration of pollen is a key process for both pollination and self-incompatibility, and this is achieved by a balanced complex of hydration, dehydration and nutrient supply to pollen grains from stigmatic papilla cells.
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