Journal Article

Nectar and pollination drops: how different are they?

Massimo Nepi, Patrick von Aderkas, Rebecca Wagner, Serena Mugnaini, Andrea Coulter and Ettore Pacini

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 2, pages 205-219
Published in print August 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp124
Nectar and pollination drops: how different are they?

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background

Pollination drops and nectars (floral nectars) are secretions related to plant reproduction. The pollination drop is the landing site for the majority of gymnosperm pollen, whereas nectar of angiosperm flowers represents a common nutritional resource for a large variety of pollinators. Extrafloral nectars also are known from all vascular plants, although among the gymnosperms they are restricted to the Gnetales. Extrafloral nectars are not generally involved in reproduction but serve as ‘reward’ for ants defending plants against herbivores (indirect defence).

Scope

Although very different in their task, nectars and pollination drops share some features, e.g. basic chemical composition and eventual consumption by animals. This has led some authors to call these secretions collectively nectar. Modern techniques that permit chemical analysis and protein characterization have very recently added important information about these sugary secretions that appear to be much more than a ‘reward’ for pollinating (floral nectar) and defending animals (extrafloral nectar) or a landing site for pollen (pollination drop).

Conclusions

Nectar and pollination drops contain sugars as the main components, but the total concentration and the relative proportions are different. They also contain amino acids, of which proline is frequently the most abundant. Proteomic studies have revealed the presence of common functional classes of proteins such as invertases and defence-related proteins in nectar (floral and extrafloral) and pollination drops. Invertases allow for dynamic rearrangement of sugar composition following secretion. Defence-related proteins provide protection from invasion by fungi and bacteria. Currently, only few species have been studied in any depth. The chemical composition of the pollination drop must be investigated in a larger number of species if eventual phylogenetic relationships are to be revealed. Much more information can be provided from further proteomic studies of both nectar and pollination drop that will contribute to the study of plant reproduction and evolution.

Keywords: Nectar; pollination drop; ovular secretion; plant reproduction; proteins; sugars; gymnosperms; angiosperms; plant–animal interaction

Journal Article.  10962 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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