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Fungal Genet Biol. 2000 Apr;29(3):211-20.

Statoliths in Phycomyces: characterization of octahedral protein crystals.

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Fachbereich Biologie, Philipps Universit├Ąt, Lahnberge, Marburg, D-35032, Germany.


To identify the molecular mechanisms of gravitropism in the fungus Phycomyces blakesleeanus we determined several biochemical and physical parameters of paracrystalline protein bodies, so-called octahedral crystals. The crystals, which are present throughout the central vacuoles of the sporangiophore, function as statoliths (Schimek et al., 1999a,b). They possess an average volume of 9.96 microm(3) and a specific mass of 1.26 g cm(-3). SDS-PAGE of purified crystals shows three major proteins with relative molecular masses of 16, 46.5, and 55 kDa. These proteins are absent in gravitropism mutants which lack the crystals. Phototropism mutants (genotype mad) which are graviresponsive (class 1) and those which are defective in gravitropism (class 2) contain the crystals and the three associated proteins. Absorption spectra of isolated crystals and in situ absorption spectra of growing zones indicate the presence of chromophores, probably oxidized and reduced flavins. The flavin nature of the chromophores is also indicated by their fluorescence properties. It appears likely that the chromophores represent an essential part of the statoliths and thus the gravitropic transduction chain.

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