The actin cytoskeleton is conserved in all eukaryotes, but its functions vary among different organisms. In oomycetes, the function of the actin cytoskeleton has received relatively little attention. We have performed a bioinformatics study and show that oomycete actin genes fall within a distinct clade that is divergent from plant, fungal and vertebrate actin genes. To obtain a better understanding of the functions of the actin cytoskeleton in hyphal growth of oomycetes, we studied the actin organization in Phytophthora infestans hyphae and the consequences of treatment with the actin depolymerising drug latrunculin B (latB). This revealed that latB treatment causes a concentration dependent inhibition of colony expansion and aberrant hyphal growth. The most obvious aberrations observed upon treatment with 0.1 µM latB were increased hyphal branching and irregular tube diameters whereas at higher concentrations latB (0.5 and 1 µM) tips of expanding hyphae changed into balloon-like shapes. This aberrant growth correlated with changes in the organization of the actin cytoskeleton. In untreated hyphae, staining with fluorescently tagged phalloidin revealed two populations of actin filaments: long, axially oriented actin filament cables and cortical actin filament plaques. Two hyphal subtypes were recognized, one containing only plaques and the other containing both cables and plaques. In the latter, some hyphae had an apical zone without actin filament plaques. Upon latB treatment, the proportion of hyphae without actin filament cables increased and there were more hyphae with a short apical zone without actin filament plaques. In general, actin filament plaques were more resilient against actin depolymerisation than actin filament cables. Besides disturbing hyphal growth and actin organization, actin depolymerisation also affected the positioning of nuclei. In the presence of latB, the distance between nuclei and the hyphal tip decreased, suggesting that the actin cytoskeleton plays a role in preventing the movement of nuclei towards the hyphal tip.
- root hairs
- tip growth