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UBC researchers discover key mechanism that regulates shape and growth of plants
Date:8/16/2011

they were in the non-mutant plants," says Chris Ambrose, the post-doctoral fellow in Wasteneys' lab whose observations led to the discovery. "By examining how microtubules behave at the sharp edges between adjacent cell faces, we noticed that in the mutant, microtubules would grow into the edges and then undergo catastrophic disassembly. In the non-mutant plants containing the CLASP protein, microtubules would easily bend through 90 degrees and continue growing on the adjacent cell face upon encountering an edge."

Ambrose and Wasteneys then joined forces with UBC mathematicians Eric Cytrynbaum and Jun Allard to run three-dimensional computer simulations to test the ideas that emerged from imaging the living plant cells.

The researchers found that the simulations, which typically take about a day to run on a super computer, closely recapitulated the microtubule patterns observed in living cells.

"Simulation after simulation showed us that microtubules would form parallel arrays in the same patterns seen in living cells," says Allard, now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis. "We confirmed that the self-organization depends on the extrinsic cues from the cellular geometry, and that the presence of the CLASP protein along select edges modified the pattern dramatically."

The finding may also be relevant to the burgeoning interest in stem cell biology in the biomedical research field. "Microtubules and the CLASP protein are common to all cell types in plants animals, fungi and many unicellular organisms," says Wasteneys. "So what we find out about their behaviour in plant cells is relevant to understanding their function in cells types as diverse as neurons and disease-causing protozoans."


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Contact: Prof. Geoffrey Wasteneys
geoffrey.wasteneys@ubc.ca
778-994-1070
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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