Zygotes of the brown alga Fucus distichus L. Powell accumulate a sulfated polysaccharide (fucoidin) in the cell wall at the site of rhizoid formation. Previous work indicated that zygotes grown in seawater minus sulfate do not sulfate the preformed fucan (an unsulfated fucoidin) but form rhizoids. Under these conditions, we determined whether sulfation of the fucan is required for its localization in the rhizoid wall. This was accomplished by developing a specific stain for both the fucan and fucoidin. Using a precipitin assay, we demonstrated in vitro that the lectin ricin (RCA(I)) specifically complexes with both the sulfated and desulfated polysaccharide. No precipitate is observed when either is incubated in 0.1 M D-galactose or when RCA(I) is mixed with laminarin or alginic acid, the other major polysaccharides in Fucus. RCA(I) conjugated with fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) is also shown to bind specifically to fucoidin using a filter paper (DE81) assay. When added to zygotes, RCA(I)-FITC binds only to the site of fucoidin localization, i.e., the rhizoid cell wall. However, RCA(I)-FITC is not observed in the rhizoid wall of zygotes grown in the absence of sulfate. This observation is not due to inability of RCA(I)-FITC to bind to the fucan in vivo. Chemically desulfated cell walls that contained fucoidin in the rhizoid wall bind RCA(I)-FITC only in the rhizoid region. Also, the concentration of fucose-containing polymers and polysaccharides that form precipitates with RCA(I) is the same in embryos grown in the presence or absence of sulfate. If sulfate is added back to cultures of zygotes grown without sulfate, fucoidin is detected at the rhizoid tip by RCA(I)-FITC several hours later. These results support the conclusion that the enzymatic sulfation of the fucan is a modification of the polysaccharide required for its localization and/or assembly into a specific region of the cell wall.

This content is only available as a PDF.