Plotting a course: multiple signals guide pollen tubes to their targets.
Pollen plays a critical role in the life cycle of all flowering plants, generating a polarized pollen tube that delivers sperm to the eggs in the interior of the flower. Pollen tubes perceive multiple extracellular signals during their extended growth through different floral environments; these environments discriminate among pollen grains, allowing only those that are appropriately recognized to invade. The phases of pollen tube growth include interactions that establish pollen polarity, entry of pollen tubes into female cell walls, and adhesion-based pollen tube motility through a carbohydrate-rich matrix. Recent studies have identified cells within the female germ unit as important sources of pollen guidance cues. Other signals undoubtedly exist, and their discovery will require genetic screens that target diploid tissues as well as haploid male and female cells.