Gametes of Chlamydomonas reinhardi become activated for cell fusion as the consequence of sexual adhesion between membranes of mating-type plus and minus flagella. By using tannic acid plus en bloc uranyl acetate staining, and by fixing at very early stages in the mating reaction, we have demonstrated the following. (a) Activation of the minus mating structure entails major modifications in the structure of the organelle, causing it to double in size and to concentrate surface coat material, termed fringe, into a central zone. (b) The unactivated plus mating structure is endowed with fringe that moves with the tip of the actin-filled fertilization tubule during activation. Pre-fusion images suggest the occurrence of a specific recognition event between the plus and minus fringes. (c) Gametes carrying the imp-1 mutation fail to form a fringe and are unable to fuse. The imp-1 mutation is linked to the mating-type plus (mt+) locus, suggesting that the gene specifying the synthesis or insertion of fringe is encoded in this sector of the genome. (d) Gametes carrying the imp-11 mutation fail to form both a normal fringe and a normal submembranous density beneath the fringe, and are also unable to fuse. The imp-11 mutation converted a wild-type minus cell into a pseudo-plus strain; a model to explain this conversion proposes that the normal imp-11 gene product represses plus-specific genes concerned with Chlamydomonas gametogenesis.

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