Background: Highly elongated eukaryotic cells (e.g., neuronal axons, fungal hyphae, and pollen tubes) are generated through continuous apically restricted growth (tip growth), which universally requires tip-localized Rho GTPases. We used the oscillating pollen tube as a model system to determine the function and regulation of Rho GTPases in tip growth. Our previous work showed that the spatiotemporal dynamics of the apical cap of the activated Rho-like GTPase from Plant 1 (ROP1) are critical for tip growth in pollen tubes. However, the underlying mechanism for the generation and maintenance of this dynamic apical cap is poorly understood.
Results: A screen for mutations that enhance ROP1-overexpression-induced depolarization of pollen-tube growth identified REN1 (ROP1 enhancer 1) in Arabidopsis, whose null mutations turn elongated pollen tubes into bulbous cells. REN1 encodes a novel Rho GTPase-activating protein (RhoGAP) required for restricting the ROP1 activity to the pollen-tube tip. REN1 was localized to exocytic vesicles accumulated in the pollen-tube apex, as well as to the apical plasma membrane at the site of ROP1 activation. The apical localization of REN1 and its function in controlling growth polarity was compromised by disruption of ROP1-dependent F-actin and vesicular trafficking, which indicates that REN1 targeting and function is regulated by ROP1 downstream signaling.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the REN1 RhoGAP controls a negative-feedback-based global inhibition of ROP1. This function provides a critical self-organizing mechanism, by which ROP signaling is spatially limited to the growth site and temporally oscillates during continuous tip growth. Similar spatiotemporal control of Rho GTPase signaling may also play an important role in cell-polarity control in other systems, including tip growth in fungi and cell movement in animals.