The growth of mycelial fungi is characterized by the highly polarized extension of hyphal tips and the formation of subapical branches, which themselves extend as new tips. In Neurospora crassa, tip growth and branching are crucial elements for this saprophyte in the colonization and utilization of organic substrates. Much research has focused on the mechanism of tip extension, but a cellular model that fully explains the known phenomenology of branching by N. crassa has not been proposed. We described and tested a model in which the formation of a lateral branch in N. crassa was determined by the accumulation of tip-growth vesicles caused by the excess of the rate of supply over the rate of deposition at the apex. If both rates are proportional to metabolic rate, then the model explains the known lack of dependence of branch interval on growth rate. We tested the model by manipulating the tip extension rate, first by shifting temperature in both the wild type and hyperbranching (colonial) mutants and also by observing the behavior of both tipless colonies and colonyless tips. We found that temperature shifts in either direction result in temporary changes in branching. We found that colonyless tips also pass through a temporary transition phase of branching. The tipless colonies produced a cluster of new tips near the point of damage. We also found that branching in colonial mutants is dependent on growth rate. The results of these tests are consistent with a model of branching in which branch initiation is controlled by the dynamics of tip growth while being independent of the actual rate of this growth
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