Fucoid zygotes establish a rhizoid-thallus growth axis in response to environmental signals; however, these extrinsic cues are not necessary for polarization, suggesting that zygotes may have inherent polarity. The hypothesis that sperm entry provides a default pathway for polarization of zygotes cultured in the absence of environmental signals was tested, and was supported by several lines of evidence. First, an F-actin patch, a cortical marker of the rhizoid pole, formed at the sperm entry site within minutes of fertilization. Second, the sperm entry site predicted the site of polar adhesive secretion (the first morphological manifestation of the rhizoid pole) and the position of rhizoid outgrowth. Third, when fertilization was restricted to one hemisphere of the egg, rhizoid outgrowth always occurred from that hemisphere. Fourth, delivery of sperm to one location within a population of eggs resulted in polarization of both adhesive secretion and rhizoid outgrowth toward the sperm source. Finally, induction of polyspermy using low sodium seawater increased the frequency of formation of two rhizoids. Sperm entry therefore provides an immediate default axis that can later be overridden by environmental cues.

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