The mating reaction of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii entails a rapid series of cell-cell interactions leading to cell fusion. We have demonstrated (Pasquale, S. M., and U. Goodenough. 1987. J. Cell Biol. 105:2279-2293) that cAMP plays a key role in this process: gametic flagellar adhesion elicits a sharp increase in intracellular cAMP, and presentation of dibutyryl-cAMP to unmated gametes elicits all known mating responses. The present study evaluates the role of Ca2+ in this system. We document that the mating-induced increase in cAMP, and hence the mating responses themselves, are blocked by a variety of drugs known to interfere with Ca(2+)-sensitive processes. These data suggest that Ca(2+)-mediated events may couple adhesion to the generation of cAMP. Such events, however, appear to be localized to the flagellar membrane; we find no evidence for the mating-related increase in cytosolic free Ca2+ that has been postulated by others. Indeed, by monitoring the length of the Ca(2+)-sensitive centrin-containing nucleus-basal body connector, we show that cytosolic free Ca2+ levels, if anything, decrease in response to cAMP signaling. We confirm a previous report that Ca2+ levels increase in the mating medium, but document that this represents a response to augmented cAMP levels and not a prelude. Finally, we show that IP3 levels remain constant throughout the mating reaction. These results are discussed in terms of the various signal transduction systems that have now been identified in Chlamydomonas.

This content is only available as a PDF.