The role of the cytoskeleton in polarity and morphogenesis of algal cells

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 1996 Feb;8(1):38-42. doi: 10.1016/s0955-0674(96)80046-9.


Selected algal species continue to serve as model organisms for the study of cell growth and cellular morphogenesis. Recent improvements in immunohistochemical and microinjection methods have helped to consolidate our views of the role of the cytoskeleton as a generator of spatial patterns in the cytoplasm before cellular morphogenesis. Progress has also been made in the discovery and characterization of molecular components of both the cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix (ECM). Studies on the oocytes of fucoid brown algae have demonstrated that the ECM serves an active role in controlling cell shape and in defining the developmental fate of a cell. Actin, transmembrane proteins of the beta-integrin type, and vitronectin-like proteins in the ECM have been discussed as important elements in polar axis formation in the early steps of post-fertilization development. The mechanism of cell expansion has been investigated in the large coenocytic cells of the siphonoclad green algae. It was shown that the alignment of cell wall microfibrils in these cells depends on the degree of order in the cortical microtubule system. However, in contrast to earlier hypotheses, microtubules do not appear to function as physical boundaries guiding the paths of cellulose synthesizing terminal complexes in the plane of the plasma membrane. Recent work on the giant unicellular green alga Acetabularia has revealed dynamic reorganizations of the actin cytoskeleton during the course of apical morphogenesis. Actin has also been suggested to play a role, in more subtle ways, in the establishment of membrane prepatterns during cellular morphogenesis of the desmid green alga Micrasterias, prepatterns that predict regions of future surface expansion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Eukaryota / cytology*
  • Eukaryota / physiology
  • Morphogenesis / physiology