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Microbiol Rev. 1993 Jun;57(2):367-82.

Roles of calcium ions in hyphal tip growth.

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Research School for Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra.


A role for Ca2+ in the tip growth process of fungal hyphae and other eukaryotic walled cells has been widely explored, following the earlier indications of their importance by Jaffe, Steer, and their colleagues. Analysis of the literature on fungi, with selected comparison with other tip-growing plant cells, shows that the growth rate and morphology of hyphae are sensitive to factors which influence intracellular Ca2+. These factors include variations in extracellular Ca2+ concentrations, Ca2+ ionophores, inhibitors of Ca2+ transport, and calmodulin- and Ca(2+)-binding dyes and buffers introduced into the cytoplasm. The effects of these agents appear to be mediated by a tip-high gradient of cytoplasmic free Ca2+ which is obligatorily present in all critically examined growing tips. Most recent observations agree that the gradient is very steep, declining rapidly within 10 to 20 microns of the tip. This gradient seems to be generated by the combined effects of an influx of Ca2+, via plasma membrane, possibly stretch-activated, channels localized in the hyphal tip, and subapical expulsion or sequestration of these ions. Expulsion probably involves a plasma membrane Ca(2+)-ATPase, but it is not yet possible to differentiate among mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, or vacuoles as the dominant sites of sequestration. It is suggested that regulation of the Ca2+ gradient in turn modulates the properties of the actin-based component of the cytoskeleton, which then controls the extensibility, and, possibly, the synthesis of the hyphal apex. Regulatory feedback mechanisms intrinsic to this model of tip growth regulation are briefly discussed, together with suggestions for future experiments which are crucial to its further elucidation and establishment.

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