• anisogamy;
  • dioecious;
  • Derbesia tenuissima;
  • gametogenesis;
  • maternal inheritance;
  • organelle DNA

Gametogenesis in male and female gametophytes was studied by light microscopy and EM in the dioecious multinucleate green alga Derbesia tenuissima (Moris & De Notaris) P. Crouan & H. Crouan, where male and female gametes differ in size. Gametogenesis was divided into five stages: 32 h (stage 1), 24 h (stage 2), 16 h (stage 3), 8 h (stage 4), and 0.5 h (stage 5) before gamete release. At stage 1, the first sign of gametogenesis observed was the aggregation of gametophyte protoplasm to form putative gametangia. At stage 2, gametangia were separated from the vegetative protoplasm of gametophytes. Morphological changes of nuclei and organelles occurred at this early stage of male gametogenesis, and organelle DNA degenerated. At stage 3, male organelle DNA had completely degenerated, whereas in female gametangia, organelle DNA continued to exist in both chloroplasts and mitochondria. Gametogenesis was almost completed at stage 4 and fully at stage 5. Small male gametes had a DNA-containing nucleus and a large mitochondrion and one or several degenerated chloroplasts. The mitochondria and plastids were devoid of DNA. The large female gametes had a nucleus and multiple organelles, all of which contained their own DNA. Thus, degeneration of chloroplast DNA along with morphological changes of organelles occurred at male gametogenesis in anisogamous green algae (Bryopsis and D. tenuissima), in contrast with previous studies in isogamous green algae (Chlamydomonas, Acetabularia caliculus, and Dictyosphaeria cavernosa) in which degeneration of chloroplast DNA occurred after zygote formation.