Amputated apices from vegetative wildtype cells of the uninucleate green alga Acetabularia acetabulum can differentiate a reproductive structure of ‘cap’ in the absence of the nucleus (Hammerling, J. (1932) Biologisches Zentralblatt 52, 42–61). To define the limits of the ability of wildtype cells to control reproductive differentiation, we determined when during development apices from wildtype cells first acquired the ability to make a cap in the absence of the nucleus and, conversely, when cells with a nucleus lost the ability to recover from the loss of their apices. To see when the apex acquired the ability to make a cap without the nucleus, we removed apices from cells varying either the developmental age of the cells or the cellular volume left with the apex. Cells must have attained the adult phase of development before the enucleate apex could survive amputation and make a cap. Apices removed from cells early in adult growth required more cell volume to make a cap without the nucleus than did apices removed from cells late in adult growth. To define the limits of the cell to recapitulate development when reproduction falters, we analyzed development in cells whose caps either had been amputated or had spontaneously aborted. After loss of the first cap, cells repeated part of vegetative growth and then made a second cap. The ability to make a second cap after amputation of the first one was lost 15–20 days after cap initiation. Our data suggest that internal cues, cell age and size, are used to regulate reproductive onset in Acetabularia acetabulum and add to our understanding of how reproduction is coordinated in this giant cell.

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