Cellular organization in germ tube tips of Gigaspora and its phylogenetic implications

Stephen P. Bentivenga, T. K. Arun Kumar, Leticia Kumar, Robert Roberson, David J. McLaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Comparative morphology of the fine structure of fungal hyphal tips often is phylogenetically informative. In particular, morphology of the Spitzenko ̈rper varies among higher taxa. To date no one has thoroughly characterized the hyphal tips of members of the phylum Glomeromycota to compare them with other fungi. This is partly due to difficulty growing and manipulating living hyphae of these obligate symbionts. We observed growing germ tubes of Gigaspora gigantea, G. margarita and G. rosea with a combination of light microscopy (LM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). For TEM, we used both traditional chemical fixation and cryo-fixation methods. Germ tubes of all species were extremely sensitive to manipulation. Healthy germ tubes often showed rapid bidirectional cytoplasmic streaming, whereas germ tubes that had been disturbed showed reduced or no cytoplasmic movement. Actively growing germ tubes contain a cluster of 10-20 spherical bodies approximately 3-8 mm behind the apex. The bodies, which we hypothesize are lipid bodies, move rapidly in healthy germ tubes. These bodies disappear immediately after any cellular perturbation. Cells prepared with cryo-techniques had superior preservation compared to those that had been processed with traditional chemical protocols. For example, cryo-prepared samples displayed two cell-wall layers, at least three vesicle types near the tip and three distinct cytoplasmic zones were noted. We did not detect a Spitzenkörper with either LM or TEM techniques and the tip organization of Gigaspora germ tubes appeared to be similar to hyphae in zygomycetous fungi. This observation was supported by a phylogenetic analysis of microscopic characters of hyphal tips from members of five fungal phyla. Our work emphasizes the sensitive nature of cellular organization, and the need for as little manipulation as possible to observe germ tube structure accurately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1087-1099
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013


  • Character evolution
  • Cryo-fixation
  • Electron microscopy
  • Glomeromycota
  • Light microscopy
  • Spitzenkörper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cellular organization in germ tube tips of Gigaspora and its phylogenetic implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this