Heat shock elicits production of sexual inducer in Volvox

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Science  03 Jan 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4733, pp. 51-54
DOI: 10.1126/science.3941891


In the green alga Volvox carteri, heat shock had an unusual and adaptive effect mediated by induced production of a well-defined effector molecule. Females of this species normally reproduce asexually in the absence of a potent sexual inducer produced by mature sexual males, but they generated egg-bearing sexual daughters after a brief exposure to elevated temperatures. This response involved an "autoinduction" of sexuality, in which heat-shocked somatic cells made and released the sexual inducer, which then redirected development of the reproductive cells. Males, including a sterile mutant incapable of producing inducer in the usual manner, also produced the inducer in response to heat shock. The phenomenon probably is of significance in the wild, where Volvox reproduces asexually in temporary ponds in spring but becomes sexual and produces dormant, overwintering zygotes before the ponds dry up in the summer heat.

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