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J Inorg Biochem. 2008 Mar;102(3):540-6. Epub 2007 Nov 23.

A sensitive method for examining whole-cell biochemical composition in single cells of filamentous fungi using synchrotron FTIR spectromicroscopy.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3T 2N2.


Cell function is related to cell composition. The asexual state of filamentous fungi (molds and mildews) has two main life cycle stages: vegetative hyphae for substrate colonization and nutrient acquisition, and asexual spores for survival and dispersal. Hyphal composition changes over a few tens of microns during growth and maturation; spores are different from hyphae. Most biochemical analyses are restricted to studying a few components at high spatial resolution (e.g. histochemistry) or many compounds at low spatial resolution (e.g. GC-MS). Synchrotron FTIR spectromicroscopy can be used to study fungal cell biology by fingerprinting varieties of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids at about 6 microm spatial resolution. FTIR can distinguish fungal species and changes during hyphal growth, and reveals that even fungi grown under optimal vs mildly stressed conditions exhibit dramatic biochemical changes without obvious morphological effects. Here we compare hypha and spore composition of two fungi, Neurospora and Rhizopus. There are clear biochemical changes when Neurospora hyphae commit to spore development, during spore maturation and following germination, many of which are consistent with results from molecular genetics, but have not been shown before at high spatial resolution. Rhizopus spores develop within a fluid-containing sporangium that becomes dry at maturity. Rhizopus spores had similar protein content and significantly more carbohydrate than the sporangial fluid, both of which are novel findings.

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