In the anthers of flowering plants, gymnosperms, and seed ferns, tiny (¡1 mm) granules might occur on the radial and innermost tangential wall of secretory tapetum cells. These sporopollenin granules develop simultaneously with the pollen exine and are called orbicules or Ubisch bodies. The present paper focuses on two quite different topics associated with orbicules. The morphological and ultrastructural diversity of orbicules in the order Gentianales is summarized, and it is demonstrated that orbicules are a plesiomorphic feature in the order. Furthermore, orbicule characters seemed to be correlated with evolutionary trends in pollen dispersal unit and tapetum type features. In the second part, we report on our investigation of Corylus avellana L. (Hazel) pollen, using immunogold electron microscopy to gain an insight into the possible role that orbicules may play as a vector of pollen allergens. During the pollen season orbicules are dispersed into the atmosphere along with Hazel pollen grains. The localisation of homologues of the new birch pollen allergen Bet v 7 was studied at the subcellular level in Hazel anthers. The results of this study indicate that orbicules and pollen of Hazel might act as very effective vectors for homologues of Bet v 7 and that debris of Hazel anthers represent vectors of allergens after the pollen season.

, , , , , ,
Staff publications

Vinckier, S, Cadot, P, & Smets, E.F. (2005). The manifold characters of orbicules: structural diversity, systematic significance, and vectors for allergens. Grana, 44(4), 300–307.