Endomembrane architecture and dynamics during secretion of the extracellular matrix of the unicellular charophyte, Penium margaritaceum

J Exp Bot. 2020 Jun 11;71(11):3323-3339. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eraa039.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) of many charophytes, the assemblage of green algae that are the sister group to land plants, is complex, produced in large amounts, and has multiple essential functions. An extensive secretory apparatus and endomembrane system are presumably needed to synthesize and secrete the ECM, but structural details of such a system have not been fully characterized. Penium margaritaceum is a valuable unicellular model charophyte for studying secretion dynamics. We report that Penium has a highly organized endomembrane system, consisting of 150-200 non-mobile Golgi bodies that process and package ECM components into different sets of vesicles that traffic to the cortical cytoplasm, where they are transported around the cell by cytoplasmic streaming. At either fixed or transient areas, specific cytoplasmic vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane and secrete their constituents. Extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) production was observed to occur in one location of the Golgi body and sometimes in unique Golgi hybrids. Treatment of cells with brefeldin A caused disruption of the Golgi body, and inhibition of EPS secretion and cell wall expansion. The structure of the endomembrane system in Penium provides mechanistic insights into how extant charophytes generate large quantities of ECM, which in their ancestors facilitated the colonization of land.

Keywords: Penium; Charophyte; Golgi body; endomembrane system; extracellular matrix; tomography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Wall
  • Charophyceae*
  • Chlorophyta*
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Golgi Apparatus
  • Polysaccharides


  • Polysaccharides