Pollen tubes and root hairs are highly elongated, cylindrically shaped cells whose polarized growth permits them to explore the environment for the benefit of the entire plant. Root hairs create an enormous surface area for the uptake of water and nutrients, whereas pollen tubes deliver the sperm cells to the ovule for fertilization. These cells grow exclusively at the apex and at prodigious rates (in excess of 200 nm/s for pollen tubes). Underlying this rapid growth are polarized ion gradients and fluxes, turnover of cytoskeletal elements (actin microfilaments), and exocytosis and endocytosis of membrane vesicles. Intracellular gradients of calcium and protons are spatially localized at the growing apex; inward fluxes of these ions are apically directed. These gradients and fluxes oscillate with the same frequency as the oscillations in growth rate but not with the same phase. Actin microfilaments, which together with myosin generate reverse fountain streaming, undergo rapid turnover in the apical domain, possibly being regulated by key actin-binding proteins, e.g., profilin, villin, and ADF/cofilin, in concert with the ion gradients. Exocytosis of vesicles at the apex, also dependent on the ion gradients, provides precursor material for the continuously expanding cell wall of the growing cell. Elucidation of the interactions and of the dynamics of these different components is providing unique insight into the mechanisms of polarized growth.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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