The pollen coat is a hydrophobic mixture on the pollen grain surface, which plays an important role in protecting male gametes from various environmental stresses and microorganism attacks, and in pollen–stigma interactions during pollination in angiosperms. An abnormal pollen coat can result in humidity-sensitive genic male sterility (HGMS), which can be used in two-line hybrid crop breeding. Despite the crucial functions of the pollen coat and the application prospect of its mutants, few studies have focused on pollen coat formation. In this Review, the morphology, composition and function of different types of pollen coat are assessed. On the basis of the ultrastructure and development process of the anther wall and exine found in rice and Arabidopsis, the genes and proteins involved in the biosynthesis of pollen coat precursors and the possible transport and regulation process are sorted. Additionally, current challenges and future perspectives, including potential strategies utilizing HGMS genes in heterosis and plant molecular breeding, are highlighted.
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We thank M. Sun, Z. Yang and C. Xu for the helpful comments and editing of the manuscript. This research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (no. 2022YFF1003500) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 32101769, 31530050, 3191001081).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Qiao, Y., Hou, B. & Qi, X. Biosynthesis and transport of pollen coat precursors in angiosperms. Nat. Plants 9, 864–876 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-023-01413-0