The contribution of the extracellular matrix to gravisensing in characean cells

J Cell Sci. 1992 Mar;101 ( Pt 3):611-23. doi: 10.1242/jcs.101.3.611.


The cell-extracellular matrix junction, which includes the cell wall and the outer surface of the plasma membrane, may be an essential region for the perception of gravity by the internodal cells of Chara corallina. Typically, when an internodal cell is oriented vertically, the downwardly directed cytoplasmic stream travels at a velocity that is 10% faster than that of the upwardly directed stream. However when the cells are treated with impermeant hydrolytic enzymes that partially digest cellulose or hemicellulose, the cells lose their ability to respond to gravity even though streaming continues. By contrast, enzymes that digest pectins have no effect on the gravity-induced polarity of cytoplasmic streaming. Furthermore, gravisensing is sensitive to protease treatment; Proteinase K, thermolysin and collagenase but not trypsin, alpha-chymotrypsin or carboxypeptidase B, inhibit gravisensing. These findings indicate that proteins in the cell-extracellular matrix junction may be required for gravisensing. Moreover, the tetrapeptide Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (RGDS) inhibits gravisensing in a concentration-dependent manner, indicating that the gravireceptor may be an integrin-like protein. The macromolecules necessary for gravisensing have been localized to the cell ends. As a consequence of the exoplasmic site of action of the enzymes and the tetrapeptides, we interpret the results to mean that they are acting on the gravireceptor, although we cannot eliminate the possibility that they are acting on the signal transduction chain. On the whole, our observations indicate that the cell-extracellular matrix junction is a sine qua non for graviperception in statolith-free Chara internodal cells and we suggest that the gravireceptor is located in this region.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Cell Wall / physiology
  • Chlorophyta / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / physiology*
  • Gravitation*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acids / metabolism
  • Oligopeptides / physiology
  • Plant Proteins* / metabolism


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Oligopeptides
  • Plant Proteins
  • arginyl-glycyl-aspartic acid