• cytoskeleton;
  • galls;
  • inhibitors;
  • nematodes;
  • syncytia


Giant cells induced by root knot nematodes and syncytia caused by cyst nematodes are large multinucleated feeding cells containing a dense cytoplasm generated during a complex host–parasite association in plant roots. To find out whether cytoskeleton changes occurred during feeding cell development, transcriptional activity of actin (ACT) and tubulin genes and organization of the ACT filaments and of the microtubules (MTs) were analyzed in situ. The importance of changes in the cytoskeleton architecture for the proper initiation and development of galls and syncytia was demonstrated by perturbing the cytoskeleton with chemical inhibitors. The expression levels of cytoskeletal components, such as tubulins and ACTs, are proposed to be upregulated to allow the assembly of a new cytoskeleton in expanding feeding cells. However, MTs and ACT filaments failed to properly organize and appeared partially depolymerized throughout feeding site development. Both the actin and tubulin cytoskeletons were strongly disrupted in syncytia and mitotic figures were never observed. In contrast, in giant cells, an ACT and cortical MT cytokeleton, although disturbed, was still visible. In addition, a functional mitotic apparatus was present that contained multiple large spindles and arrested phragmoplasts, but no pre-prophase bands. Chemical stabilization of the microtubular cytoskeleton with taxol blocked feeding site development. On the other hand, when the ACT or MT cytoskeleton of feeding cells was depolymerized by cytochalasin D or oryzalin, nematodes could complete their life cycle. Our data suggest that the cytoskeleton rearrangements and depolymerization induced by parasitic nematodes may be essential for a successful feeding process.