Electron tomographic characterization of a vacuolar reticulum and of six vesicle types that occupy different cytoplasmic domains in the apex of tip-growing Chara rhizoids

Planta. 2008 Apr;227(5):1101-14. doi: 10.1007/s00425-007-0684-y. Epub 2008 Jan 12.


We provide a 3D ultrastructural analysis of the membrane systems involved in tip growth of rhizoids of the green alga Chara. Electron tomography of cells preserved by high-pressure freeze fixation has enabled us to distinguish six different types of vesicles in the apical cytoplasm where the tip growth machinery is accommodated. The vesicle types are: dark and light secretory vesicles, plasma membrane-associated clathrin-coated vesicles (PM-CCVs), Spitzenkoerper-associated clathrin-coated vesicles (Sp-CCVs) and coated vesicles (Sp-CVs), and microvesicles. Each of these vesicle types exhibits a distinct distribution pattern, which provides insights into their possible function for tip growth. The PM-CCVs are confined to the cytoplasm adjacent to the apical plasma membrane. Within this space they are arranged in clusters often surrounding tubular plasma membrane invaginations from which CCVs bud. This suggests that endocytosis and membrane recycling are locally confined to specialized apical endocytosis sites. In contrast, exocytosis of secretory vesicles occurs over the entire membrane area of the apical dome. The Sp-CCVs and the Sp-CVs are associated with the aggregate of endoplasmic reticulum membranes in the center of the growth-organizing Spitzenkoerper complex. Here, Sp-CCVs are seen to bud from undefined tubular membranes. The subapical region of rhizoids contains a vacuolar reticulum that extends along the longitudinal cell axis and consists of large, vesicle-like segments interconnected by thin tubular domains. The tubular domains are encompassed by thin filamentous structures resembling dynamin spirals which could drive peristaltic movements of the vacuolar reticulum similar to those observed in fungal hyphae. The vacuolar reticulum appears to serve as a lytic compartment into which multivesicular bodies deliver their internal vesicles for molecular recycling and degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chara / metabolism*
  • Chara / ultrastructure
  • Clathrin-Coated Vesicles / metabolism
  • Clathrin-Coated Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Tomography / instrumentation
  • Tomography / methods*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism*
  • Vacuoles / ultrastructure