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J Cell Sci. 1997 May;110 ( Pt 10):1187-98.

Pronounced cytoplasmic pH gradients are not required for tip growth in plant and fungal cells.

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  • 1Molecular Signalling Group, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK.


The existence of pronounced cytoplasmic pH gradients within the apices of tip-growing cells, and the role of cytoplasmic pH in regulating tip growth, were investigated in three different cell types: vegetative hyphae of Neurospora crassa; pollen tubes of Agapanthus umbellatus; and rhizoids of Dryopteris affinis gametophytes. Examination of cytoplasmic pH in growing cells was performed by simultaneous, dual emission confocal ratio imaging of the pH-sensitive probe carboxy SNARF-1. Considerable attention was paid to the fine tuning of dye loading and imaging parameters to minimise cellular perturbation and assess the extent of dye partitioning into organelles. With optimal conditions, cytoplasmic pH was measured routinely with a precision of between +/-0.03 and +/-0.06 of a pH unit and a spatial resolution of 2.3 microm2. Based on in vitro calibration, estimated values of mean cytoplasmic pH for cells loaded with dye-ester were between 7.15 and 7.25 for the three cell types. After pressure injecting Neurospora hyphae with dextran-conjugated dye, however, the mean cytoplasmic pH was estimated to be 7.57. Dextran dyes are believed to give a better estimate of cytoplasmic pH because of their superior localisation and retention within the cytosol. No significant cytoplasmic pH gradient (delta pH of >0.1 unit) was observed within the apical 50 microm in growing cells of any of the three cell types. Acidification or alkalinisation of the cytoplasm in Neurospora hyphae, using a cell permeant weak acid (propionic acid at pH 7.0) or weak base (trimethylamine at pH 8.0), slowed down but did not abolish growth. However, similar manipulation of the cytoplasmic pH of Agapanthus pollen tubes and Dryopteris rhizoids completely inhibited growth. Modification of external pH affected the growth pattern of all cell types. In hyphae and pollen tubes, changes in external pH were found to have a small transient effect on cytoplasmic pH but the cells rapidly readjusted towards their original pH. Our results suggest that pronounced longitudinal gradients in cytoplasmic pH are not essential for the regulation of tip growth.

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