Achlya, like other tip-growing organisms, generates an endogenous electrical current such that positive charge flows into the hyphal apex and exits from the trunk. The present study is concerned with the mechanism of current generation by hyphae growing in a defined, complete medium. The intensity of the current, measured in the extracellular medium with a vibrating probe, was unaffected by the removal of all the inorganic constituents of the growth medium. However, an increase in the external pH or the deletion of amino acids abolished the current. Removal of methionine alone diminished the current by two thirds. Hyphae also generated a longitudinal pH gradient in the extracellular medium; the region surrounding the tip was more alkaline than the bulk medium, whereas the region around the trunk was relatively acidic. These findings suggest that a flux of protons, dependent upon amino acids in the medium, carries current into the tip and creates the surrounding alkaline zone. The proton current appears to result from the transport of amino acids rather than their metabolism. Conditions that abolished the current also inhibited methionine uptake but had little effect on the respiratory rate. The findings imply a connection between the proton current and chemiosmotic energy transduction. We propose that protons flow into the hyphal tip through amino acid/proton symporters that are preferentially localized there. The proton flux energizes the uptake of amino acids into the growing zone and may also contribute to the polarization of hyphal growth.

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