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Am J Bot. 2001 Jul;88(7):1151-63.

Architecture of the sperm cell of Psilotum.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology and Center for Systematic Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois 62901-6509 USA;


In this correlated SEM (scanning electron microscope) and TEM (transmission electron microscope) investigation, we describe architectural details of the multiflagellated sperm cell of Psilotum nudum. Comparisons with other pteridophytes are made to (1) assess the placement of Psilotum among pteridophyte taxa and (2) evaluate structural modifications of sperm cells during land plant evolution. The released spermatozoid of Psilotum coils 2.0 revolutions and is outlined by a parallel band of up to 190 microtubules. The elongated nucleus is highly compacted and parallels the cellular coils with numerous mitochondria and starch-laden plastids distributed along its length. Along the anterior coil is an elaborate locomotory apparatus that includes ∼36 flagella that are inserted into the cell by basal bodies. Subtending the basal bodies is the multilayered structure, which consists of a long narrow lamellar strip and an overlying band of microtubules. An elongated anterior mitochondrion underlies the multilayered structure. Additional amyloplasts and mitochondria are aggregated along the anterior coil in association with the locomotory apparatus, while a fibrous band encircles the leading edge of the cell. Salient features of this cell, including details of the locomotory apparatus, structure and position of organelles, and arrangement of the spline, are shared by spermatozoids of Equisetum and ferns (including eusporangiate and leptosporangiate taxa). Thus, this study provides morphological support for the hypothesis that Psilotum nudum is a member of an assemblage that includes ferns and Equisetum. However, the less streamlined architecture of Psilotum gametes and the lack of architectural features shared with any specific taxon examined to date suggest that Psilotum is an early divergent fern, with relatively remote affinities to Ophioglossaceae and Equisetaceae.

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