, Volume 255, Issue 3, pp 719–731 | Cite as

Cytomixis in plants: facts and doubts



The migration of nuclei between plant cells (cytomixis) is a mysterious cellular phenomenon frequently observable in the male meiosis of higher plants. Cytomixis attracts attention because of unknown cellular mechanisms underlying migration of nuclei and its potential evolutionary significance, since the genetic material is transferred between the cells that form pollen. Although cytomixis was discovered over a century ago, the advance in our understanding of this process has been rather insignificant because of methodological difficulties. The data that allowed for a new insight into this phenomenon were obtained by examining the migrating nuclei with electron and confocal laser microscopy, immunostaining, and fluorescence in situ hybridization. As has been shown, the chromatin migrating between cells is surrounded by an undamaged nuclear membrane. Such chromatin does not undergo heterochromatization and contains normal euchromatin markers. The condensation degree of the migrating chromatin corresponds to the current meiotic stage, and normal structures of synaptonemal complex are present in the migrating part of the nucleus. The cells involved in cytomixis lack any detectable morphological and molecular markers of programmed cell death. It has been shown that individual chromosomes and genomes (in the case of allopolyploids) have no predisposition to the migration between cells, i.e., parts of the nucleus are involved in cytomixis in a random manner. However, the fate of migrating chromatin after it has entered the recipient cell is still vague. A huge amount of indirect data suggests that migrating chromatin is incorporated into the nucleus of the recipient cell; nonetheless, the corresponding direct evidences are still absent. No specific markers of cytomictic chromatin have been yet discovered. Thus, the causes and consequences of cytomixis are still disputable. This review briefs the recent data on the relevant issues, describes the classical and modern methodological approaches to analysis of the intercellular migration of nuclei, and discusses the problems in cytomixis research and its prospects.


Micronuclei Meiosis Intercellular channels Nuclear migration Unreduced pollen 



The work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research [16-34-60007 mol_a_dk] and Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science under the program “Molecular genetic bases of regulation of genes expression, morphology, differentiation and cell reprogramming” [0324-2016-0003].

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Cytology and GeneticsRussian Academy of SciencesNovosibirskRussian Federation

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