Rapid freezing and freeze substitution (RF-FS) have been used to re-examine the process by which the multinucleate sporangium of the Oomycetes, Phytophthora cinnamomi and P. palmivora, is subdivided into uninucleate zoospores. The results indicate a new model for sporangial cleavage in Phytophthora and suggest that the currently accepted model is based on interpretation of artefacts caused by chemical fixation. The previous model describes cleavage as a two-stage process in which specialized cleavage vesicles first become positioned at the boundaries of each future subdivision and later fuse to compartmentalize the sporangium. RF-FS, however, indicates that cleavage results from the progressive extension of paired sheets of membrane along the future subdivision boundaries. These sheets finally interconnect and subdivide the sporangium. Cleavage vesicles are only evident in preliminary stages of this process and are never aligned along the future boundaries, contrary to the observations of studies based on chemical fixation. Chemical fixation apparently causes the membranous sheets to vesiculate, even at relatively advanced stages of cleavage, thus giving the misleading impression that the resulting network of lined-up vesicles is an intermediate stage in the cleavage process. This finding has wide-ranging implications for the understanding of eukaryotic cytokinesis, because all previous studies that describe vesicle alignment and fusion have relied upon chemical fixation. Other novel features revealed by RF-FS include an extensive extracellular matrix within the sporangium that could be involved in zoospore release, and a trans-Golgi network.

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