Ca2+ signalling and homeostasis during colony initiation in Neurospora crassa
Calcium is a highly versatile intracellular signal molecule that can regulate numerous different cellular functions. In filamentous fungi there is evidence for it being involved in regulating various processes, including spore germination, hyphal tip growth, hyphal branching and conidiation. During colony initiation in the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, conidia form germ tubes which are involved in colony establishment, and conidial anastomosis tubes (CATs) which are involved in generating fused networks of conidial germlings. The primary research aim of this thesis was to analyze the role of Ca2+-signalling and homeostasis during colony initiation in N. crassa. Removal of Ca2+ from the growth medium showed that external Ca2+ was necessary for CAT fusion and, more specifically, was required for CAT chemoattraction. Two L-type Ca2+ channel blockers (verapamil and diltiazem) with different modes of action were found to inhibit both conidial germination and CAT fusion in wild type strains and CAT fusion was shown to be more sensitive to these two drugs. These channel blockers were additionally found to inhibit Ca2+ uptake by conidial germlings of the wild type expressing the aequorin Ca2+ reporter. However, the channel blockers also, unexpectedly, raised the cytosolic free Ca2+ ([Ca2+]c) resting level in these germlings suggesting that they did not just inhibit L-type Ca2+ activity. The morphological phenotypes (conidial germination, hyphal extension rate, conidiation and hyphal branching) of 22 mutants defective in different components of their Ca2+-signalling and homeostasis machinery were characterized in order to identify their possible roles of Ca2+ during colony initiation and development. The ∆cch-1 mutant lacking the CCH-1 L-type Ca2+ channel gene exhibited a reduction in CAT fusion. CAT fusion was decreased even further in a double mutant (∆cch-1∆mid-1) suggesting that that the CCH-1 and MID-1 proteins operate in combination during this process. Increased extracellular Ca2+ partially restored the phenotypes of the ∆cch-1, ∆mid-1 smco-1 and ∆cch-1∆mid-1 mutants which is consistent with CCH-1 and MID-1 being involved in Ca2+ uptake from the external medium. Calcium signatures following mechanical perturbation were successfully measured in populations of conidial germlings using aequorin expressed in the wild type and in deletion mutants (∆cch-1, ∆yvc-1, ∆fig-1) lacking different Ca2+ channels. The removal of external Ca2+ completely abolished the [Ca2+]c increase in response to mechanical perturbation and CCH-1 was found to partly contribute to this increase in [Ca2+]c. Various Ca2+-sensitive dyes (Oregon green 488, Fluo-4 and Calcium Green-1) were also tested to determine if they can be used to image [Ca2+]c at the single cell and subcellular levels. Only Fluo-4 allowed the measurement of [Ca2+]c in individual cells but the changes in dye fluorescence in response to changes in [Ca2+]c were too small to be useful for imaging [Ca2+]c dynamics at the subcellular level. The other two dyes underwent rapid compartmentalization in organelles when loaded into germlings. The plant antifungal proteins (defensins), MsDef1, MtDef4 and PAF were all found to disrupt Ca2+ signaling/homeostasis in conidial germlings of N. crassa. They all inhibited the [Ca2+]c increase and raised the resting level of [Ca2+]c in response to mechanical perturbation. Analysis of an aequorin expressing mutant that was defective in glucosylceramide synthase (∆gcs) showed that the effects of MsDef1 (but not MtDef4) on [Ca2+]c were mediated by the sphingolipid glucosylceramide. All of the defensins tested were found to exhibit different potencies with regard to their inhibitory effects on conidial germination and CAT fusion.