Dynamic Properties of Microtubules in Plant Cells, with Implications for Spatial Organization, Growth and Development

  • Date: 03/06/2008

Geoff Wasteneys, Department of Botany, UBC


University of British Columbia


Microtubules are dynamic polymers found in all eukaryotic
organisms that build the cellular machines that separate chromosomes,
polarize the cytoplasm, direct expansion and divide cells.
Interestingly, plant cells lack the central microtubule-organizing
centres common in animal cells but still manage to organize microtubules
into complex arrays.

The research in my laboratory explores how the dynamic properties of
microtubules, which we can now quantify in live cells using fluorescent
reporter proteins, help to determine the spatial organization of
microtubule arrays, and how these arrays in turn control the growth,
morphology and performance of plants. I will outline how genetic
approaches to identify key accessory proteins that modulate microtubule
dynamics are generating experimental tools for understanding the
mechanisms that drive organization of the microtubule arrays. Comparing
the dynamic behaviour of microtubules in mutant lines that are defective
in one or more of these accessory proteins enables us to test models of
the molecular mechanisms that drive microtubule organization. We are
currently using this knowledge to explore the role microtubules play in
the mechanical properties of the cellulosic cell wall, the helical
handedness of elongating organs, and even the polar transport of the
hormone auxin.


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