Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary The oomycetes are a class of protists that produce biflagellate asexual zoospores. Members of the oomycetes have close phylogenetic affinities with the chromophyte algae and are widely divergent from the higher fungi. This review focuses on two genera,Phytophthora andPythium, which belong to the family Pythiaceae, and the order Peronosporales. These two genera contain many species that cause serious diseases in plants. Molecules on the surface of zoospores and cysts of these organisms are likely to play crucial roles in the infection of host plants. Knowledge of the properties of the surface of these cells should thus help increase our understanding of the infection process. Recent studies ofPhytophthora cinnamomi andPythium aphanidermatum have used lectins to analyse surface carbohydrates and have generated monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) directed towards a variety of zoospore and cysts surface components. Labelling studies with these probes have detected molecular differences between the surface of the cell body and of the flagella of the zoospores. They have been used to follow changes in surface components during encystment, including the secretion of an adhesive that bonds the spores to the host surface. Binding of lectin and antibody probes to the surface of living zoospores can induce encystment, giving evidence of cell receptors involved in this process. Freeze-substitution and immunolabelling studies have greatly augmented our understanding of the synthesis and assembly of the zoospore surface during zoosporogenesis. Synthesis of a variety of zoospore components begins when sporulation is induced. Cleavage of the multinucleate sporangium is achieved through the progressive extension of partitioning membranes, and a number of surface antigens are assembled onto the zoospore surface during cleavage. Comparisons of antibody binding to many isolates and species ofPhytophthora andPythium have revealed that surface components on zoospores and cysts exhibit a range of taxonomic specificities. Surface antigens or epitopes may occur on only a few isolates of a species; they may be species-specific, genus-specific or occur on the spores of both genera. Spore surface antigens thus promise to be of significant value for studies of the taxonomy and phylogeny of these protists, as well as for disease diagnosis.
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