Multilayer gyroid cubic membrane organization in green alga Zygnema

Protoplasma. 2017 Sep;254(5):1923-1930. doi: 10.1007/s00709-017-1083-2. Epub 2017 Feb 7.


Biological cubic membranes (CM), which are fluid membranes draped onto the 3D periodic parallel surface geometries with cubic symmetry, have been observed within subcellular organelles, including mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and thylakoids. CM transition tends to occur under various stress conditions; however, multilayer CM organizations often appear associated with light stress conditions. This report is about the characterization of a projected gyroid CM in a transmission electron microscopy study of the chloroplast membranes within green alga Zygnema (LB923) whose lamellar form of thylakoid membrane started to fold into multilayer gyroid CM in the culture at the end of log phase of cell growth. Using the techniques of computer simulation of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and a direct template matching method, we show that these CM are based on the gyroid parallel surfaces. The single, double, and multilayer gyroid CM morphologies are observed in which space is continuously divided into two, three, and more subvolumes by either one, two, or several parallel membranes. The gyroid CM are continuous with varying amount of pseudo-grana with lamellar-like morphology. The relative amount and order of these two membrane morphologies seem to vary with the age of cell culture and are insensitive to ambient light condition. In addition, thylakoid gyroid CM continuously interpenetrates the pyrenoid body through stalk, bundle-like, morphologies. Inside the pyrenoid body, the membranes re-folded into gyroid CM. The appearance of these CM rearrangements due to the consequence of Zygnema cell response to various types of environmental stresses will be discussed. These stresses include nutrient limitation, temperature fluctuation, and ultraviolet (UV) exposure.

Keywords: Cubic membrane; Gyroid; Multilayer; Thylakoid; Transmission electron microscopy; Zygnema.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Chlorophyta / metabolism*
  • Chlorophyta / ultrastructure
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Chloroplasts / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Thylakoids / metabolism*
  • Thylakoids / ultrastructure