Structural and functional organization of growing tips of Neurospora crassa hyphae
- T. V. Potapova
- Biochemistry (Moscow)
Despite its many advantages as an experimental system for the study of the epigenesis of polarity, it is obvious that the fucoid zygote also presents many problems. The development of polarity proceeds largely independently of direct gene action and thus may be considered a problem in cellular physiology. Ca2+ appears to play an important role in the process, but the optical properties of the zygotes (opacity and autofluorescence) hamper the use of modern methods of visualizing the distribution of Ca2+ and other ions. Likewise, other approaches, such as injection of fluorescent-labeled G-actin, in order to study the dynamics of actin filaments, are subject to the same limitations. It may be that the application of two-photon microscopy will enable experimenters to avoid some of these problems. This technique uses excitation wavelengths that are twice the wavelength of maximum absorption by fluorophores, and sufficient photon density for absorption is achieved only in a thin section. The fucoid zygotes are considerably more transparent to longer wavelengths, so attenuation of the exciting light and autofluorescence should be significantly reduced. Perhaps we will then be able to see further into these opaque cells. Another problem concerns the use of different species and genera. This may be unavoidable; for example, those of us who are land-locked tend to rely on Pelvetia, as it travels and stores better than the various species of Fucus and is less seasonal. Our colleagues fortunate enough to work near the ocean prefer to use the species that are locally available. Nevertheless, it is important to be careful about cross-genus and cross-species generalizations. While it is unlikely, based on what we know, that there are fundamental differences in physiological mechanisms among species, there may be small but still important differences in details. Obviously, investigators should directly compare results in more than one species whenever possible. The area of greatest disagreement, perhaps, concerns the mechanism of polarity formation, as opposed to its overt manifestation, germination. Are Ca2+ and actin involved or not? Assuming Ca2+ is involved, is the source internal or external? One basis for the different findings may be the differences in the strength of the polarizing signal provided to the zygotes. Clearly, the cells have powerful mechanisms for amplifying a faint asymmetry and developing an axis in response to an external signal. Furthermore, the fucoids generally develop in the intertidal zone and thus must be adapted to meeting the challenge of a widely varying external environment. They may have alternate mechanisms for responding to unilateral light. We have adopted the approach of presenting the cells with a fairly weak light signal--the minimum required to induce a considerable degree of organization of a population of zygotes. We then determine the effects of various inhibitors on photopolarization. One advantage of this approach is that it has allowed us to find treatments that increase the sensitivity of the zygotes to light, something that would not be possible if the untreated controls were fully polarized. Some of the differences between our results and those of others may be related to their use of a stronger light stimulus. It may be that if given a strong stimulus, a sufficient trace is left in the cells so that they can organize an axis when an inhibitor is removed. Careful consideration of this point may help to reconcile apparently contradictory findings. Despite these difficulties, the fucoid zygotes are likely to continue to be an important experimental system. Technology, including the development of more specific inhibitory reagents, may allow some of the shortcomings of the system to be overcome, and careful consideration of experimental conditions may resolve some of the points of disagreement.