Given the importance of the actin cytoskeleton to pollen tube growth, we have attempted to decipher its structure, organization and dynamic changes in living, growing pollen tubes of Nicotiana tabacum and Lilium formosanum, using three different GFP-labeled actin-binding domains. Because the intricate structure of the actin cytoskeleton in rapidly frozen pollen tubes was recently resolved, we now have a clear standard against which to compare the quality of labeling produced by these GFP-labeled probes. While GFP-talin, GFP-ADF and GFP-fimbrin show various aspects of the actin cytoskeleton structure, each marker produces a characteristic pattern of labeling, and none reveals the entire spectrum of actin. Whereas GFP-ADF, and to a lesser extent GFP-talin, label the fringe of actin in the apex, no similar structure is observed with GFP-fimbrin. Further, GFP-ADF only occasionally labels actin cables in the shank of the pollen tube, whereas GFP-fimbrin labels an abundance of fine filaments in this region, and GFP-talin bundles actin into a central cable in the core of the pollen tube surrounded by a few finer elements. High levels of expression of GFP-talin and GFP-fimbrin frequently cause structural rearrangements of the actin cytoskeleton of pollen tubes, and inhibit tip growth in a dose dependent manner. Most notably, GFP-talin results in thick cortical hoops of actin, transverse to the axis of growth, and GFP-fimbrin causes actin filaments to aggregate. Aberrations are seldom seen in pollen tubes expressing GFP-ADF. Although these markers are valuable tools to study the structure of the actin cytoskeleton of growing pollen tubes, given their ability to cause aberrations and to block pollen tube growth, we urge caution in their use.
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