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Open Access Research article

Variations in morphology and PSII photosynthetic capabilities during the early development of tetraspores of Gracilaria vermiculophylla (Ohmi) Papenfuss (Gracilariales, Rhodophyta)

Xiujun Xie1, Guangce Wang12*, Guanghua Pan1, Shan Gao1, Pu Xu3 and Jianyi Zhu3

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Marine Resources and Chemistry, College of Marine Science and Engineering, Tianjin University of Science and Technology, Tianjin 300457, China

2 Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Science, Qingdao 266071, China

3 Department of Biology, Changshu Institute of Technology, Changshu 215500, China

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:43  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-43

Published: 28 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Red algae are primitive photosynthetic eukaryotes, whose spores are ideal subjects for studies of photosynthesis and development. Although the development of red alga spores has received considerable research attention, few studies have focused on the detailed morphological and photosynthetic changes that occur during the early development of tetraspores of Gracilaria vermiculophylla (Ohmi) Papenfuss (Gracilariales, Rhodophyta). Herein, we documented these changes in this species of red algae.

Results

In the tetraspores, we observed two types of division, cruciate and zonate, and both could develop into multicellular bodies (disks). During the first 84 hours, tetraspores divided several times, but the diameter of the disks changed very little; thereafter, the diameter increased significantly. Scanning electron microscopy observations and analysis of histological sections revealed that the natural shape of the disk remains tapered over time, and the erect frond grows from the central protrusion of the disk. Cultivation of tissue from excised disks demonstrated that the central protrusion of the disk is essential for initiation of the erect frond. Photosynthetic (i.e., PSII) activities were measured using chlorophyll fluorescence analysis. The results indicated that freshly released tetraspores retained limited PSII photosynthetic capabilities; when the tetraspores attached to a substrate, those capabilities increased significantly. In the disk, the PSII activity of both marginal and central cells was similar, although some degree of morphological polarity was present; the PSII photosynthetic capabilities in young germling exhibited an apico-basal gradient.

Conclusions

Attachment of tetraspores to a substrate significantly enhanced their PSII photosynthetic capabilities, and triggered further development. The central protrusion of the disk is the growth point, may have transfer of nutritive material with the marginal cells. Within the young germling, the hetero-distribution of PSII photosynthetic capabilities might be due to the differences in cell functions.