The electrical properties of the water mold Achlya bisexualis were investigated using intracellular microelectrodes. Hyphae growing in a defined medium maintained a membrane potential (Vm) of -150 to -170 mV, interior negative. Under the conditions used here, this potential was insensitive to changes in the inorganic ion composition of the medium. Changes in external pH did affect Vm, but only outside the physiological pH range. By contrast, the addition of respiratory inhibitors caused a rapid depolarization without affecting the conductance of the plasma membrane. Taken together these findings strongly suggest that the membrane potential is governed by an electrogenic ion pump rather than by an ionic diffusion potential. Previous work from this laboratory showed that Achlya hyphae generate a transcellular proton current that enters the growing tip, flows along the hyphal length, and exits distally from the trunk. These initial experiments used an extracellular vibrating electrode, and I now report intracellular electrical recordings which support the hypothesis that protons enter the tip by symport with amino acids and are expelled distally by a proton-translocating ATPase. Most significantly, current flowing intracellularly along the hyphal length is associated with a cytoplasmic electric field of 0.2 V/cm or greater. Conditions that inhibit the current also abolish the internal field, suggesting that these two phenomena are closely linked.

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