, Volume 221, Issue 1, pp 95–104 | Cite as

Enhanced fixation reveals the apical cortical fringe of actin filaments as a consistent feature of the pollen tube

  • Alenka Lovy-Wheeler
  • Kathleen L. Wilsen
  • Tobias I. Baskin
  • Peter K. Hepler
Original Article


The actin cytoskeleton plays a crucial role in the growth and polarity of the pollen tube. Due to inconsistencies in the conventional preservation methods, we lack a unified view of the organization of actin microfilaments, especially in the apical domain, where tip growth occurs. In an attempt to improve fixation methods, we have developed a rapid freeze-whole mount procedure, in which growing pollen tubes (primarily lily) are frozen in liquid propane at −180°C, substituted at −80°C in acetone containing glutaraldehyde, rehydrated, quenched with sodium borohydride, and probed with antibodies. Confocal microscopy reveals a distinct organization of actin in the apical domain that consists of a dense cortical fringe or collar of microfilaments starting about 1–5 μm behind the extreme apex and extending basally for an additional 5–10 μm. In the shank of the pollen tube, basal to the fringe, actin forms abundant longitudinal filaments that are evenly dispersed throughout the cytoplasm. We have also developed an improved ambient-temperature chemical fixation procedure, modified from a protocol based on simultaneous fixation and phalloidin staining. We removed EGTA, elevated the pH to 9, and augmented the fixative with ethylene glycol bis[sulfosuccinimidylsuccinate] (sulfo-EGS). Notably, this protocol preserves the actin cytoskeleton in a pattern similar to that produced by cryofixation. These procedures provide a reproducible way to preserve the actin cytoskeleton; employing them, we find that a cortical fringe in the apex and finely dispersed longitudinal filaments in the shank are consistent features of the actin cytoskeleton.


Actin Actin preservation Pollen tube Chemical fixation Cryofixation Sulfo-EGS 



We thank Dale Callaham for his excellent technical assistance, and acknowledge the National Science Foundation grant that supports the Central Microscopy Facility (NSF BBS 8714235), where all images were acquired. We thank Lawrence Hurd for suggesting the use of a high pH during ambient-temperature fixation. We also thank Dr. Kent McDonald, University of California, Berkeley, CA for helpful discussions about cryofixation strategies and together with Dr. J. Sedat, University of California, San Francisco, CA for drawing our attention to EGS as a potential cross-linker for actin fixation. The Davis and Delisle Funds, of the Plant Biology Graduate Program, are acknowledged for their support. We thank the Gloeckner Company for supplying us with L. longiflorum bulbs. This project was supported by the National Science Foundation grant No. MCB-0077599 to PKH, and U.S. Department of Energy grant No. 03ER15421 to TIB, which does not constitute endorsement by the Department of views expressed herein.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alenka Lovy-Wheeler
    • 1
  • Kathleen L. Wilsen
    • 1
  • Tobias I. Baskin
    • 1
  • Peter K. Hepler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Plant Biology Graduate Program, Morrill Science Center IIIUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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