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Plant Cell. 2008 Apr;20(4):982-94. doi: 10.1105/tpc.108.058503. Epub 2008 Apr 22.

Analysis of cortical arrays from Tradescantia virginiana at high resolution reveals discrete microtubule subpopulations and demonstrates that confocal images of arrays can be misleading.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.


Cortical microtubule arrays are highly organized networks involved in directing cellulose microfibril deposition within the cell wall. Their organization results from complex interactions between individual microtubules and microtubule-associated proteins. The precise details of these interactions are often not evident using optical microscopy. Using high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, we analyzed extensive regions of cortical arrays and identified two spatially discrete microtubule subpopulations that exhibited different stabilities. Microtubules that lay adjacent to the plasma membrane were often bundled and more stable than the randomly aligned, discordant microtubules that lay deeper in the cytoplasm. Immunolabeling revealed katanin at microtubule ends, on curves, or at sites along microtubules in line with neighboring microtubule ends. End binding 1 protein also localized along microtubules, at microtubule ends or junctions between microtubules, and on the plasma membrane in direct line with microtubule ends. We show fine bands in vivo that traverse and may encircle microtubules. Comparing confocal and electron microscope images of fluorescently tagged arrays, we demonstrate that optical images are misleading, highlighting the fundamental importance of studying cortical microtubule arrays at high resolution.

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