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Int Rev Cytol. 2002;220:257-89.

Acentrosomal microtubule nucleation in higher plants.

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  • 1Plant Molecular Biology Institute, National Center of Scientific Research, UPR 2357, Universit√© Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France.


Higher plants have developed a unique pathway to control their cytoskeleton assembly and dynamics. In most other eukaryotes, microtubules are nucleated in vivo at the nucleation and organizing centers and are involved in the establishment of polarity. Although the major cytoskeletal components are common to plant and animal cells, which suggests conserved regulation mechanisms, plants do not possess centrosome-like organelles. Nevertheless, they are able to build spindles and have developed their own specific cytoskeletal arrays: the cortical arrays, the preprophase band, and the phragmoplast, which all participate in basic developmental processes, as shown by defective mutants. New approaches provide essential clues to understanding the fundamental mechanisms of microtubule nucleation. Gamma-tubulin, which is considered to be the universal nucleator, is the essential component of microtubule-nucleating complexes identified as gamma-tubulin ring complexes (gamma-TuRC) in centriolar cells. A gamma-tubulin small complex (gamma-TuSC) forms a minimal nucleating unit recruited at specific sites of activity. These components--gamma-tubulin, Spc98p, and Spc97p--are present in higher plants. They play a crucial role in microtubule nucleation at the nuclear surface, which is known as the main functional plant microtubule-organizing center, and also probably at the cell cortex and at the phragmoplast, where secondary nucleation sites may exist. Surprisingly, plant gamma-tubulin is distributed along the microtubule length. As it is not associated with Spc98p, it may not be involved in microtubule nucleation, but may preferably control microtubule dynamics. Understanding the mechanisms of microtubule nucleation is the major challenge of the current research.

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