The very high proportions of trienoic fatty acids found in chloroplast membranes of all higher plants suggest that these lipid structures might be essential for photosynthesis. We report here on the production of Arabidopsis triple mutants that contain negligible levels of trienoic fatty acids. Photosynthesis at 22[deg]C was barely affected, and vegetative growth of the mutants was identical with that of the wild type, demonstrating that any requirement for trienoic acyl groups in membrane structure and function is relatively subtle. Although vegetative growth and development were unaffected, the triple mutants are male sterlle and produce no seed under normal conditions. Comparisons of pollen development in wild-type and triple mutant flowers established that pollen grains in the mutant developed to the tricellular stage. Exogenous applications of [alpha]-llnolenate or jasmonate restored fertility. Taken together, the results demonstrate that the critical role of trienoic acids in the life cycle of plants is as the precursor of oxylipin, a signaling compound that regulates final maturation processes and the release of pollen.