Background and AimsAn intense pollen–pistil interaction precedes fertilization. This interaction is of particular relevance in agronomically important species where seeds or fruits are the edible part. Over time some agronomically species have been selected for the ability to produce fruit without seeds. While this phenomenon is critical for commercial production in some species, very little is known about the events behind the production of seedless fruit. In this work, the relationship between
pollen–pistil interaction and the onset of fruiting was investigated in citrus mandarin.MethodsPistils were sequentially examined in hand-pollinated flowers paying attention to pollen-tube behaviour, and to cytochemical changes along the pollen-tube pathway. To evaluate which of these changes were induced by pollination/fertilization and which were developmentally regulated, pollinated and unpollinated pistils were compared. Also the onset of fruiting was timed and changes in the ovary examined.Key ResultsConspicuous changes occurred in the pistil along the pollen-tube pathway, which took place in a basipetal way encompassing the timing of pollen-tube growth. However, these changes appear to be developmentally regulated as they happened in the same way and at the same time in unpollinated flowers. Moreover, the onset of fruiting occurred prior to fertilization and the very same changes could be observed in unpollinated flowers.ConclusionsPollen–pistil interaction in citrus showed similarities with unrelated species and families belonging to other taxa. The uncoupling of the reproductive and fruiting processes accounts for the parthenocarpic ability of unpollinated flowers to produce fruit in citrus. However, the maintenance of a functional reproductive process reflects the potential to produce seeded fruits, providing a basis for the understanding of the production of seeded or unseeded fruits and further understanding of the process of parthenocarpy in other species.