Background and Aims Cellular morphogenesis in land plants and brown algae is typically a slow process involving growth established by an interplay of turgor pressure and cell wall rigidity. However, a recent study showed that zygotes of the brown alga Dictyota dichotoma undergo a rapid shape change from a sphere to an elongated spheroid in about 90 s, establishing the first body axis.
Methods Using a combination of pharmacology, staining techniques, membrane depolarization and microscopy techniques (brightfield, transmission electron microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy), egg activation and the shape change of the egg cell of D. dichotoma was studied.
Key Results It was established that elongation of the zygote does not involve growth, i.e. a positive change in size. The elongation is dependent on F-actin and myosin but independent of microtubules. Secretion was also found to be necessary for elongation after addition of brefeldin A. Moreover, a temporal correlation between extracellular matrix secretion and elongation was observed. Ionomycin and high potassium seawater are capable of triggering the onset of elongation, suggesting a role for membrane depolarization and calcium influx in the signalling mechanism. The elongated cells are shorter in the presence of ionomycin, suggesting a role for calcium in elongation.
Conclusions A model is proposed in which the fast elongation of the fertilized egg in Dictyota is accomplished by a force generated by F-actin and myosin, regulated by cytoplasmic calcium concentrations and by secretion during elongation lowering the antagonistic force. The finding of early extracellular matrix secretion, membrane depolarization and ionophore-triggered egg activation suggest significant differences in the mechanism of egg activation signalling between D. dichotoma and the oogamous brown algal model system Fucus.