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The anchor and the sword: unlocking the secrets of microtubule formation in plants

A group of scientists from ITbM and Nara Institute of Science and Technology have made a significant discovery regarding the formation and organization of cortical microtubules in plant cells.


Microtubules are polymers of tubulin which form part of the cytoskeleton, and are involved in a number of essential cellular processes, with their orientation affecting chromosome segregation, cell polarity and cell morphogenesis. It is understood that both the formation and severing of microtubules is key to their organization. In particular, the selective and efficient severing of microtubules at their formation site by a protein called katanin (named after the katana, a type of sword), so that these newly-formed daughter microtubules can move to the cortex of the cell and stimulate interaction with other microtubules, is important. However, the molecular mechanism that recruits the katanin severing factor to the site at which the microtubules form has long remained unknown.

The researchers found that the Msd1-Wdr8 'anchor molecule' complex, which stabilizes the microtubules to the nucleation sites, controls the accumulation of katanin at the microtubule formation sites to enables the efficient release of daughter microtubules. Thus, the recruitment of severing factors performed by Msd1-Wdr8 and their effects on microtubule stability may seem incompatible, but this strict regulation probably increases plants' ability to precisely control their microtubule severing processes.

Katanin severs microtubules at specific sites in animal and plant cells, which leads to active reorganization of the microtubule organization. This study will inform future research on whether the Msd1-Wdr8 complex in animal cells also recruits katanin, and whether other sites use similar mechanisms for the stabilization and release of daughter microtubules. The results of this study will be of interest to cell biologists not only in plants but also other organisms.

Journal Information

The article 'An anchoring complex recruits katanin for microtubule severing at the plant cortical nucleation sites' by Noriyoshi Yagi, Takehide Kato, Sachihiro Matsunaga, David W. Ehrhardt, Masayoshi Nakamura and Takashi Hashimoto is published in Nature Communications

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-24067-y


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