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In the last decade, the moss Physcomitrella patens has emerged as a powerful plant model system, amenable for genetic manipulations not possible in any other plant. This moss is particularly well suited for plant polarized cell growth studies, as in its protonemal phase, expansion is restricted to the tip of its cells. Based on pollen tube and root hair studies, it is well known that tip growth requires active secretion and high polarization of the cellular components. However, such information is still missing in Physcomitrella patens. To gain insight into the mechanisms underlying the participation of organelle organization in tip growth, it is essential to determine the distribution and the dynamics of the organelles in moss cells.
We used fluorescent protein fusions to visualize and track Golgi dictyosomes, mitochondria, and peroxisomes in live protonemal cells. We also visualized and tracked chloroplasts based on chlorophyll auto-fluorescence. We showed that in protonemata all four organelles are distributed in a gradient from the tip of the apical cell to the base of the sub-apical cell. For example, the density of Golgi dictyosomes is 4.7 and 3.4 times higher at the tip than at the base in caulonemata and chloronemata respectively. While Golgi stacks are concentrated at the extreme tip of the caulonemata, chloroplasts and peroxisomes are totally excluded. Interestingly, caulonemata, which grow faster than chloronemata, also contain significantly more Golgi dictyosomes and fewer chloroplasts than chloronemata. Moreover, the motility analysis revealed that organelles in protonemata move with low persistency and average instantaneous speeds ranging from 29 to 75nm/s, which are at least three orders of magnitude slower than those of pollen tube or root hair organelles.
To our knowledge, this study reports the first quantitative analysis of organelles in Physcomitrella patens and will make possible comparisons of the distribution and dynamics of organelles from different tip growing plant cells, thus enhancing our understanding of the mechanisms of plant polarized cell growth.