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Curr Biol. 2002 May 14;12(10):849-53.

A small, novel protein highly conserved in plants and animals promotes the polarized growth and division of maize leaf epidermal cells.

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Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA.


Plant cell shapes are defined by their surrounding walls, but microtubules and F-actin both play critical roles in cell morphogenesis by guiding the deposition of wall materials in expanding cells. Leaf epidermal cells have lobed shapes, which are thought to arise through a microtubule-dependent pattern of locally polarized growth. We have isolated a recessive mutation, brk1, which blocks the formation of epidermal cell lobes in the maize leaf. Mutant epidermal cells expand to the same extent as wild-type cells but fail to establish polar growth sites from which lobes arise. In expanding brk1 epidermal cells, microtubule organization differs little from that in wild-type, but localized enrichments of cortical F-actin seen at the tips of emerging lobes in wild-type cells fail to form. These observations suggest a critical role for F-actin in lobe formation and together with additional effects of brk1 on the morphogenesis of stomata and hairs suggest that Brk1 promotes multiple, actin-dependent cell polarization events in the developing leaf epidermis. The Brk1 gene encodes a novel, 8 kD protein that is highly conserved in plants and animals, suggesting that BRK1-related proteins may function in actin-dependent aspects of cell polarization in a wide spectrum of eukaryotic organisms.

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