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Access Type

Open Access

Degree Program

Plant Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Arabidopsis, pollen, pistil, synergids, ROS, pectin.


Rac/Rop GTPases are molecular switches in plants that control the growth of polarized cells such as pollen tubes and root hairs, differentiation, development, actin dynamics, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and disease resistance. These small GTPases are activated by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) that replace GDP for GTP and are referred to as RopGEFs in plants. To identify upstream components of the RopGEF regulated signaling pathways, GEF1 from Arabidopsis thaliana was used as a bait to screen a seedling cDNA library in a yeast two-hybrid system. This yielded members of a small family of the Catharanthus roseus Receptor-like kinase (CrRLK), referred to as the Feronia-like Receptor-like kinase (FlRLK) family as the potential GEF interactors. A synergid cell-expressed member of this family, FERONIA/SIRENE (RLK-10), regulates pollen tube reception by the female gametophyte and along with the other two plasma-membrane bound receptors of this family, THESEUS (RLK-3) and HERCULES (RLK-4) promote cell elongation in Arabidopsis.

I have chosen two of these FlRLKs for my studies: RLK-5, the most abundant pollen expressed member of the family and RLK10. My studies with RLK-5 suggest that it plays a significant role in pollination or fertilization since homozygous rlk-5 was never recovered from selfed heterozygous rlk-5 mutant. In addition to this, the reciprocal crosses with RLK-5/rlk-5 and wild type resulted in severe male transmission defect indicating that the rlk-5 mutation induces male sterility. This observation was found consistent with the pollen-specific expression pattern of RLK-5 suggested by microarray data and confirmed by histochemical GUS staining analysis of the RLK5p-GUS transgenic Arabidopsis. The RLK-5/rlk-5 pollen displayed no pollen-viability defects and the pollen tube growth in-vivo appears normal. Despite the unaffected pollen viability and apparent normal in-vivo pollen tube growth, the RLK-5/rlk-5 plants formed low seed set suggesting compromised fertilization. Additional analysis will be required to determine the basis of male deficiency and reduced seed sets in RLK5/rlk5 mutants.

Loss of function mutations of RLK-10 (FERONIA/SIRENE) gene show failure in pollen tube growth arrest upon penetration of the female gametophyte, supernumerary pollen tube penetration of the ovule and reduced female fertility. Our studies with RLK-10 suggest that it is important for mediating a proper oxido-reductive condition within the ovule necessary for pollen tube rupture and fertilization of the female gametophyte. The multiple pollen tube entry phenotype of the Arabidopsis knockout mutant, rlk-10 correlated with decreased ROS level and de-esterified pectin in the filiform apparatus lining the synergid cell of its female gametophyte. These results establish an important signaling link between RLK-10 and ROS and pectin in a GEF-Rac/Rop regulated pathway in pollen tube-ovule interaction.

First Advisor

Alice Y. Cheung