Growing hyphal tips of the oomycete Saprolegnia ferax possess a tip-high gradient of stretch-activated ion channels permeable to calcium. These mechanosensitive channels appear to play a direct role in the polarized tip growth process. Treatment of S. ferax hyphae with cytochalasin E leads to the disruption of plasmalemma-associated, peripheral cytoplasmic actin populations and altered morphology of apical protoplasts, and eliminates the tip-high gradient of stretch-activated channels. Cytochalasin E did not alter the normal aggregation of stretch-activated channels. The density of spontaneous K+ channels was decreased in all regions of the hyphae after treatment with cytochalasin E. These results suggest that the peripheral F-actin network in the growing tip of S. ferax hyphae establishes or maintains the tip-high gradient of SA channels, either by the delivery of channel-bearing vesicles to the apex or by the interactions between the channels and the peripheral actin network.

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