The Plant cell

The cysteine protease CEP1, a key executor involved in tapetal programmed cell death, regulates pollen development in Arabidopsis.

PMID 25035401


Tapetal programmed cell death (PCD) is a prerequisite for pollen grain development in angiosperms, and cysteine proteases are the most ubiquitous hydrolases involved in plant PCD. We identified a papain-like cysteine protease, CEP1, which is involved in tapetal PCD and pollen development in Arabidopsis thaliana. CEP1 is expressed specifically in the tapetum from stages 5 to 11 of anther development. The CEP1 protein first appears as a proenzyme in precursor protease vesicles and is then transported to the vacuole and transformed into the mature enzyme before rupture of the vacuole. cep1 mutants exhibited aborted tapetal PCD and decreased pollen fertility with abnormal pollen exine. A transcriptomic analysis revealed that 872 genes showed significantly altered expression in the cep1 mutants, and most of them are important for tapetal cell wall organization, tapetal secretory structure formation, and pollen development. CEP1 overexpression caused premature tapetal PCD and pollen infertility. ELISA and quantitative RT-PCR analyses confirmed that the CEP1 expression level showed a strong relationship to the degree of tapetal PCD and pollen fertility. Our results reveal that CEP1 is a crucial executor during tapetal PCD and that proper CEP1 expression is necessary for timely degeneration of tapetal cells and functional pollen formation.