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Exocytosis of the silicified cell wall of diatoms involves extensive membrane disintegration


de Haan, Diede et al. (2022), Exocytosis of the silicified cell wall of diatoms involves extensive membrane disintegration, Dryad, Dataset,


Diatoms are unicellular algae, characterized by silica cell walls. The silica elements are formed intracellularly in a membrane-bound silica deposition vesicle (SDV), and are exocytosed after completion. How diatoms maintain membrane homeostasis during the exocytosis of these large and rigid silica elements is a long-standing enigma. We studied membrane dynamics during cell wall formation and exocytosis in two model diatom species, using live-cell confocal microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and cryo-electron tomography. Our results show that during the formation of the mineral phase it is in tight association with the SDV membranes, which are forming a precise mold of the delicate geometrical patterns. During exocytosis, the distal SDV membrane and the plasma membrane gradually detach from the mineral and disintegrate in the extracellular space, without any noticeable endocytic retrieval or extracellular repurposing. Within the cell, there is no evidence for the formation of a new plasma membrane, thus the proximal SDV membrane becomes the new barrier between the cell and its environment, and assumes the role of a new plasma membrane. These results provide direct structural observations of diatom silica exocytosis, and point to an extraordinary mechanism in which membrane homeostasis is maintained by discarding, rather than recycling, significant membrane patches.


Raw microscopy files.