Gametogenesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has been studied in mating-type plus cells utilizing several different culture conditions, all of which are shown to depend on the depletion of nitrogen from the medium, and the fine structure of gametes prepared under these conditions has been compared by using thin sections of fixed materials. We document alterations in ribosome levels, in chromatin morphology, in starch levels, in the organization of chloroplast membranes, and in the appearance of nuclear envelope and endoplasmic reticulum membranes during gametogenesis. We also noted the acquisition of two new organelles: a mating structure (Friedman, L., A. L. Colwin, and L. H. Colwin. 1968. j. cell Sci. 3:115-128; goodenough, U. W., and R. L. Weiss. 1975. J. Cell Biol. 67:623-637), and Golgi-derived vesicles containing a homogeneous material. We chart the time course of these morphological changes during synchronous gametogenesis. We note that many of these changes may represent adjustments to nitrogen starvation rather than direct features of gametic differentiation, and we also document that cells can differentiate so that they survive conditions of nitrogen starvation for many weeks after they become gametes. We conclude that metabolic alterations, the acquisition of mating ability, and the preparation for long-term survival are all elicited in this organism by nitrogen withdrawal, and we discuss how the various structural alterations observed in this study may relate to these three interrelated avenues of cellular differentiation.

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