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Keywords:

  • ascus;
  • ascospore;
  • turgor pressure;
  • perithecium;
  • apothecium

Abstract

The ascomycetous fungi produce prodigious amounts of spores through both asexual and sexual reproduction. Their sexual spores (ascospores) develop within tubular sacs called asci that act as small water cannons and expel the spores into the air. Dispersal of spores by forcible discharge is important for dissemination of many fungal plant diseases and for the dispersal of many saprophytic fungi. The mechanism has long been thought to be driven by turgor pressure within the extending ascus; however, relatively little genetic and physiological work has been carried out on the mechanism. Recent studies have measured the pressures within the ascus and quantified the components of the ascus epiplasmic fluid that contribute to the osmotic potential. Few species have been examined in detail, but the results indicate diversity in ascus function that reflects ascus size, fruiting body type, and the niche of the particular species.