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J Cell Sci. 1998 Nov;111 ( Pt 21):3197-207.

Cytoplasmic calcium gradients and calmodulin in the early development of the fucoid alga Pelvetia compressa.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1392, USA.


The predicted existence of cytoplasmic Ca2+ gradients during the photopolarization of the zygotes of the brown algae, Pelvetia and Fucus, has proved to be difficult to establish, and the downstream targets of the putative gradients are not known. We have used quantitative microinjection of the long excitation wavelength Ca2+ indicator, Calcium Crimson, and of antibodies against calmodulin to investigate these matters in the zygotes and early embryos of Pelvetia. We found that there is a window of cytoplasmic Calcium Crimson concentration that gives an adequate signal above autofluorescence yet allows normal development of the zygotes. As Calcium Crimson is not a ratiometric indicator, we injected other zygotes with a Ca2+-insensitive dye, rhodamine B, and imaged the cells at the same time that Calcium Crimson-injected cells were imaged. Ratios were calculated by dividing the averaged pixel values of Calcium Crimson images by the averaged pixel values of corresponding rhodamine B images. By this method, we observed the formation of a cytoplasmic Ca2+ gradient within one hour of the exposure of the cells to unilateral blue light during the photosensitive period. The region of high Ca2+ was localized to and predictive of the site of future rhizoid formation. We validated this somewhat indirect method by applying it to the growing rhizoid, where the existence of a tip-localized Ca2+ gradient is well established. The method clearly revealed the known gradient. The injection of ungerminated zygotes with antibodies made against Dictyostelium calmodulin inhibited germination, and this inhibition was abolished if the calmodulin antibodies were coinjected with an excess of purified maize calmodulin. Likewise, the growth of the rhizoids was inhibited by calmodulin antibody injections. The fungus-derived calmodulin antagonist, ophiobolin A, which has previously been shown to be a potent inhibitor of germination, also inhibited rhizoidal growth. Our results provide evidence that a cytoplasmic Ca2+ gradient is present during photopolarization and that calmodulin acts as a mediator of Ca2+ gradients throughout the early developmental processes of germination and rhizoidal growth in Pelvetia compressa.

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