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Although we usually associate pollen with seasonal allergies, pollen is crucial for the reproduction of plants. Eric Hamilton describes the common characteristics that all pollen share as plants’ sperm: they need to survive the external environment, reach a female partner, and find their way to the ovary. During these processes, pollen’s physiology changes drastically as it needs to dehydrate, rehydrate, and grow. Using Arabidopsis as a model organism, Hamilton and his colleagues discovered a membrane protein named MLS8, which is crucial for pollen’s hydration and fertility processes. Hamilton describes how MSL8 acts as pollen’s pressure release valve, allowing pollen to survive drastic physical changes.
Eric Hamilton completed his Bachelors degrees in Biology and Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University before joining the PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis in 2012. His interests in plant biology led him to join Dr. Elizabeth Haswell’s lab, where he has studied the mechanisms of plant pollination and pollen’s response to mechanical stress. Hamilton was awarded the 2015 AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, where he joined the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and wrote local science stories on a wide range of topics. He created his own website and blog, hamiltonerics.com, that focuses on science communication. Hamilton is pursuing a career focused on communicating science engagingly to diverse audiences through print, multimedia, and programming.
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E. Hamilton et. al. Mechanosensitive channel MSL8 regulates osmotic forces during pollen hydration and germination. Science (2015) 350, 438-41
Hamilton et al., United in diversity: mechanosensitive ion channels in plants.
Annu Rev Plant Biol (2015) 66, 113-37
Haswell & Verslues, The ongoing search for the molecular basis of plant osmosensing. J Gen Physiol (2015) 145, 389-94
Firon et al., Water status and associated processes mark critical stages in pollen development and functioning. Ann Bot (2012) 109, 1201-14.