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Planta. 1987 May;171(1):43-57. doi: 10.1007/BF00395066.

Secretion and membrane recycling in plant cells: novel intermediary structures visualized in ultrarapidly frozen sycamore and carrot suspension-culture cells.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Box 347, 80309, Boulder, CO, USA.


Freeze-fracture electron microscopy of propane-jet-frozen samples has been employed to investigate vesicle-mediated secretion and membrane recycling events in carrot (Daucus carota L.) and sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) suspension-culture cells. Stabilization of the cells by means of ultrarapid freezing has enabled us to preserve the cells in a turgid state and to visualize new intermediate membrane configurations related to these events. Indeed, many of the observed membrane configurations, such as flattened membrane vesicles with slit-shaped membrane fusion sites and horseshoe-shaped membrane infoldings, appear to result from the action of turgor forces on the plasma membrane. Individual cells exhibited great variations in numbers and types of membrane configurations postulated to be related to secretion and membrane-recycling events. In the majority of cells, the different membrane profiles displayed a patchy distribution, and within each patch the membrane configurations tended to be of the same stage. This result indicates that secretory events are triggered in domains measuring from 0.1 to about 10 μm in diameter. Based on an extensive analysis of the different membrane configurations seen in our samples, we have formulated the following model of vesicle-mediated secretion in plant cells: Fusion of a secretory vesicle with the plasma membrane leads to the formation of a single, narrow-necked pore that increases in diameter up to about 60 nm. During discharge, the vesicle is flattened, forming a disc-shaped structure perpendicular to the plane of the plasma membrane. As the vesicle is flattened, the pore is converted to a slit, the maximum length of which coincides with the diameter of the flattened vesicle. The flattened vesicle then tips over and concomitantly the plasma-membrane slit becomes curved into a horseshoe-shaped configuration as it extends along the outer margins of the tipped-over vesicle. Some coated pits are present interspersed between the above-mentioned structures, but their numbers appear insufficient to account for an exclusively endocytotic mechanism of membrane recycling. Instead, our micrographs are more consistent with a mixed mode of recycling of membrane components to the cortical endoplamic reticulum and to Golgi cisternae that involves both internalization of membrane by endocytosis and of individual lippid molecules by unknown mechanisms (lipid exchange proteins?). To this end, overall flattening out of the horseshoe-shaped membrane infoldings is accompanied by a retraction and reduction in size of their central, tongue-like structure.


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