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Scientists watch cell-shape process for first time
Date:10/10/2010

Palo Alto, CAResearchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science, with colleagues at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, observed for the first time a fundamental process of cellular organization in living plant cells: the birth of microtubules by studying recruitment and activity of individual protein complexes that create the cellular protein network known as the microtubule cytoskeletonthe scaffolding that provides structure and ultimately form and shape to the cell. These fundamental results could be important to agricultural research and are published in the October 10, 2010, early on-line edition of Nature Cell Biology.

All plant and animal cells rely on an elaborate array of molecular rods built from the protein tubulin. These rods, called microtubules, organize the cell and generate forces needed to support cell shape, cell movement, and importantly, cell division. To perform these tasks, microtubules need to be organized into specific configurations. Animal cells separate their chromosomes during cell division by organizing the microtubules network from centrioles. A big mystery is how plants, which do not have centrioles organize their microtubule network. Understanding these mechanisms of molecular organization is a primary goal of cell biology.

As co-author David Ehrhardt from Carnegie's Department of Plant Biology explained: "In many cells, microtubule arrays are created with aid of a centralized body called a centrosome. Centrosomal arrays have been a focus of research for decades and much is now understood about how these arrays are created and organized by the centrosome. However, many differentiated animal cells, and flowering plant cells have arrays that are created independently of a centrosome. In fact, flowering plants lack centrosomes all together. Although these centrosome arrays are common in nature, they have received less study and their organization mechanisms remain largely mysterious."

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Contact: David Ehrhardt
ehrhardt@stanford.edu
650-325-1521
Carnegie Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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