Ionic mechanism and role of phytochrome-mediated membrane depolarisation in caulonemal side branch initial formation in the moss Physcomitrella patens

Elena Ermolayeva, Dale Sanders, Eva Johannes

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In caulonemal filaments of the moss Physcomitrella patens (Hedw.), red light triggers a phytochrome-mediated transient depolarisation of the plasma membrane and the formation of side branch initials. Three-electrode voltage clamp and ion flux measurements were employed to elucidate the ionic mechanism and physiological relevance of the red-light-induced changes in ion transport. Current-voltage analyses indicated that ion channels permeable to K+ and Ca2+ are activated at the peak of the depolarisation. Calcium influx evoked by red light coincided with the depolarisation in various conditions, suggesting the involvement of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. Respective K+ fluxes showed a small initial influx followed by a dramatic transient efflux. A role of anion channels in the depolarising current is suggested by the finding that Cl- efflux was also increased after red light irradiation. In the presence of tetraethylammonium (10 mM) or niflumic acid (1 μM), which block the red-light-induced membrane depolarisation and ion fluxes, the red-light-promoted formation of side branch initials was also abolished. Lanthanum (100 μM), which inhibits K+ fluxes and part of the initial Ca2+ influx activated by red light, reduced the development of side branch initials in red light by 50%. The results suggest a causal link between the red-light-induced ion fluxes and the physiological response. The sequence of events underlying the red-light-triggered membrane potential transient and the role of ion transport in stimulus-response coupling are discussed in terms of a new model for ion-channel interaction at the plasma membrane during signalling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-118
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1997



  • Depolarisation
  • Ion transport
  • Physcomitrella
  • Phytochrome
  • Signal transduction

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