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Advance in understanding cellulose synthesis
Date:6/14/2009

he group engineered plants to produce a fluorescent version of cellulose synthase, the enzyme that creates cellulose fibers. They also included a fluorescent version of tubulin, the protein from which microtubules are built. Using advanced imaging techniques, they tracked the motion of single fluorescent molecules, and found that cellulose synthase moves along "tracks" defined by the microtubules.

In this paper, the researchers looked at how the association between the cellulose synthase complexes and microtubules begins. The scientists were able to watch individual cellulose synthase complexes as they were delivered to the plasma membranethe permeable film that surrounds the cell, but is inside the cell wall and found that the microtubules not only guide where the complexes go as they build the cell wall, but microtubules also organize the trafficking and delivery of the cellulose synthase complexes to their place of action.

They also looked at the role in trafficking of a structural element called the actin cytoskeleton that helps move organelles and maintains the cell's shape. They found that it appears to be required for the general distribution of the cellulose synthase complexes, whereas microtubules appear to be required for final positioning.

When there is a disruption of the complexes through a stressor such as a rapid change in water movement (osmotic stress), active cellulose synthase complexes disappear and organelles accumulate just under the plasma membrane. These organelles contain cellulose synthase and are tethered to the microtubules by a novel mechanism. Previously Ehrhardt and team found that plant microtubules move by shortening at one end while lengthening at the other end. They do this one tubulin molecule at a time, in a process the researchers call treadmilling. They now think that the tethering discovered in this research allows the cellulose synthase-containing organelles to stay with the treadmilling micro
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Contact: David Ehrhardt
ehrhardt@stanford.edu
650-325-1521 x261
Carnegie Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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