The development of the tapetal cell surface and associated structures in Avena has been followed from cell formation to senescence. Plasmodesmata initially connect the tapetal cells to each other, the pollen mother cells, and the inner loculus wall cells. These connexions are subsequently severed, those to the sporogenous cells being broken first at the pollen mother cell surface during callose wall formation. Loss of cellulose from the tapetal walls was followed using the decline in the ability of the wall to bind the fluorescent brightener, Calcofluor White M2R New. Subplasma-membrane microtubules persist after loss of the cellulose wall. The tapetal plasma membrane facing the meiocytes then develops a series of depressions, or cups, over its surface, which are later the site of pro-orbicule formation. Sporopollenin is laid down over the pro-orbicules, to form orbicules, and over other tapetal cell surfaces. No morphological evidence was found for the intracytoplasmic formation of pro-orbicules or polymerized sporopollenin precursors. These observations on Avena are compared with those on other plants. The changes in the cell wall and associated structures, plasmodesmata and microtubules, are considered in detail, while the general significance of cell wall loss to the water relations of the tissue are assessed. Proposals that pro-orbicule formation results from non-specific accumulation of lipid at a free cell surface are rejected, instead this formation is considered to be related to the presence of a specially modified plasmamembrane surface.

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