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Traffic. 2003 Jul;4(7):452-9.

Protein transport and signal transduction during fertilization in chlamydomonas.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas South-western Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390-9039, USA.


Fertilization in Chlamydomonas begins with flagellar adhesion between mating type plus and mating type minus gametes and is consummated within minutes by zygote formation. Once fusion occurs, the newly merged gametes cease existence as distinct entities, and the diploid zygote immediately initiates transcription of zygote-specific genes. Accomplishing fertilization within such a short time requires the rapid and signaled movement of pre-existing membrane and cytoplasmic proteins between and within several cellular compartments. Generation within the adhering flagella of the initial signals for protein movement, as well as movement itself of at least one cytoplasmic protein from the cell body to the flagella, depend on the microtubule motor, kinesin-II and presumably on intraflagellar transport (IFT). Adhesion and fusion of the two gametes depend on a second translocation event, the movement of an adhesion/fusion protein onto the surface of a rapidly elongating, microvillous-like fusion organelle. Finally, the merging of the two separate gametes, each containing sex-specific proteins, into a single cell allows the formerly separate proteins to form new interactions that regulate zygote development. Two proteins - a nuclease and a homeodomain protein - which were present only in the plus gamete, are 'delivered' to the cytoplasm of the zygote during gamete fusion. The nuclease is selectively imported into the minus chloroplast, where it degrades the chloroplast DNA, thereby ensuring uniparental inheritance of plus chloroplast traits. The homeodomain protein binds with an as yet unidentified protein delivered by the minus gamete, and the new complex activates transcription of zygote-specific genes.

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