PH-dependent cell–cell interactions in the green alga Chara

Alexey Eremin, Alexander A. Bulychev, Christopher Kluge, Jeremy Harbinson, Ilse Foissner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Characean internodal cells develop alternating patterns of acid and alkaline zones along their surface in order to facilitate uptake of carbon required for photosynthesis. In this study, we used a pH-indicating membrane dye, 4-heptadecylumbiliferone, to study the kinetics of alkaline band formation and decomposition. The differences in growth/decay kinetics suggested that growth occurred as an active, autocatalytic process, whereas decomposition was due to diffusion. We further investigated mutual interactions between internodal cells and found that their alignment parallel to each other induced matching of the pH banding patterns, which was mirrored by chloroplast activity. In non-aligned cells, the lowered photosynthetic activity was noted upon a rise of the external pH, suggesting that the matching of pH bands was due to a local elevation of membrane conductance by the high pH of the alkaline zones of neighboured cells. Finally, we show that the altered pH banding pattern caused the reorganization of the cortical cytoplasm. Complex plasma membrane elaborations (charasomes) were degraded via endocytosis, and mitochondria were moved away from the cortex when a previously acid region became alkaline and vice versa. Our data show that characean internodal cells react flexibly to environmental cues, including those originating from neighboured cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1737-1751
Issue number6
Early online date31 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Characean internodal cells
  • Charasomes
  • Kinetics of alkaline band formation
  • Mitochondria
  • Mutual interactions
  • pH banding pattern
  • Photosynthetic activity Y(II)


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