A prominent feature of tip growth in filamentous plant cells is that the nucleus often migrates in step with the tip as it extends. We have studied this long-recognized but unexplained relationship in root hairs of the legume Vicia hirsuta by a variety of microscopic techniques. Using rhodaminyl lysine phallotoxin, and antitubulin antibodies, root hairs are shown to contain axial bundles of F-actin and a complex microtubular system. To the basal side of the nucleus the microtubules are cortical and net axial but in the region between nucleus and tip the arrangement is more complicated. Electron microscopic thin sections demonstrate that internal bundles of microtubles exist in addition to the plasma membrane-associated kind. Computerized deblurring of through-focal series of antitubulin stained hairs clarifies the three-dimensional organization: bundles of endoplasmic microtubules progress from the nuclear region toward the apical dome where they can be seen to fountain out upon the cortex.
The relationship between nucleus and tip can be uncoupled with antimicrotubule herbicides. Time lapse video microscopy shows that these agents cause the nucleus to migrate toward the base. This contrary migration can be inhibited by adding cytochalasin D, which fragments the F-actin bundles.
It is concluded that microtubules connect the nucleus to the tip but that F-actin is involved in basipetal migration as is known to occur when symbiotic bacteria uncouple the nucleus from the tip.