The distribution of actin filaments within the gravity-sensing columella cells of plant roots remains poorly understood, with studies over numerous years providing inconsistent descriptions of actin organization in these cells. This uncertainty in actin organization, and thus in actin's role in graviperception and gravisignaling, has led us to investigate actin arrangements in the columella cells of Zea mays L., Medicago truncatula Gaertn., Linum usitatissimum L. and Nicotiana benthamiana Domin. Actin organization was examined using a combination of optimized immunofluorescence techniques, and an improved fluorochrome-conjugated phalloidin labeling method reliant on 3-maleimidobenzoyl-N-hydroxy-succinimide ester (MBS) cross-linking combined with glycerol permeabilization. Confocal microscopy of root sections labeled with anti-actin antibodies revealed patterns suggestive of actin throughout the columella region. These patterns included short and fragmented actin bundles, fluorescent rings around amyloplasts and intense fluorescence originating from the nucleus. Additionally, confocal microscopy of MBS-stabilized and Alexa Fluor-phalloidin-labeled root sections revealed a previously undetected state of actin organization in the columella. Discrete actin structures surrounded the amyloplasts and prominent actin cables radiated from the nuclear surface toward the cell periphery. Furthermore, the cortex of the columella cells contained fine actin bundles (or single filaments) that had a predominant transverse orientation. We also used confocal microscopy of plant roots expressing endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-targeted green fluorescent protein to demonstrate rapid ER movements within the columella cells, suggesting that the imaged actin network is functional. The successful identification of discrete actin structures in the root columella cells forms the basis for advancing studies on the role of actin in gravity perception and signaling.
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