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J Cell Biol. 1999 Feb 8;144(3):483-96.

Growing pollen tubes possess a constitutive alkaline band in the clear zone and a growth-dependent acidic tip.

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  • 1Department Biologia Vegetal, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, P-1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.


Using both the proton selective vibrating electrode to probe the extracellular currents and ratiometric wide-field fluorescence microscopy with the indicator 2', 7'-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein (BCECF)-dextran to image the intracellular pH, we have examined the distribution and activity of protons (H+) associated with pollen tube growth. The intracellular images reveal that lily pollen tubes possess a constitutive alkaline band at the base of the clear zone and an acidic domain at the extreme apex. The extracellular observations, in close agreement, show a proton influx at the extreme apex of the pollen tube and an efflux in the region that corresponds to the position of the alkaline band. The ability to detect the intracellular pH gradient is strongly dependent on the concentration of exogenous buffers in the cytoplasm. Thus, even the indicator dye, if introduced at levels estimated to be of 1.0 microM or greater, will dissipate the gradient, possibly through shuttle buffering. The apical acidic domain correlates closely with the process of growth, and thus may play a direct role, possibly in facilitating vesicle movement and exocytosis. The alkaline band correlates with the position of the reverse fountain streaming at the base of the clear zone, and may participate in the regulation of actin filament formation through the modulation of pH-sensitive actin binding proteins. These studies not only demonstrate that proton gradients exist, but that they may be intimately associated with polarized pollen tube growth.

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