Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary Cellulose synthesizing enzyme complexes (terminal complexes, TCs) have been found in the plasma membrane of epidermal cells in the tunicateMetandrocarpa uedai by using freeze-fracture replication techniques for electron microscopy. Assembly of cellulose microfibrils by TCs is a universal phenomenon in the biological kingdoms. The TCs are locally distributed in the plasma membrane of the epidermal cells facing the tunic, and no TCs are observed on the lateral membranes bordered by tight junctions. The TCs consist of two types of membrane subunits: large particles (14.5 nm in diameter) on the periphery and small subunit particles (7.2 nm) filling the center; the latter are hypothesized to be involved in cellulose synthesis. The TCs are the linear type (ca. 195 nm in length and 78 nm in width). Direct connections of TCs with the termini of microfibrils were observed. Amorphous regions, which were hypothesized the nascent microfibrils, were associated with the depressions of the TCs. The distortion of microfibrils on their terminus indicates that the crystallization may occur at the margin of TCs from which the microfibrils are discharged. This report provides evidence that: (1) The outer cell membrane of epidermis is the site for the assembly of cellulose microfibrils in the tunic; (2) a new type of TC is involved in the biosynthesis of cellulose microfibrils in the tunicates; (3) disorganized glucan chains may be synthesized in the depression of TCs and crystallized outside the E-surface of the epidermal cell membrane.
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