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Plant J. 2013 Jul;75(2):309-23. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12102. Epub 2013 Mar 22.

Microtubules, signalling and abiotic stress.

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Molecular Cell Biology, Botanical Institute, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Kaiserstr. 12, D-76128 Karlsruhe, Germany.


Plant microtubules, in addition to their role in cell division and axial cell expansion, convey a sensory function that is relevant for the perception of mechanical membrane stress and its derivatives, such as osmotic or cold stress. During development, sensory microtubules participate in the mechanical integration of plant architecture, including the patterning of incipient organogenesis and the alignment with gravity-dependent load. The sensory function of microtubules depends on dynamic instability, and often involves a transient elimination of cortical microtubules followed by adaptive events accompanied by subsequent formation of stable microtubule bundles. It is proposed that microtubules, because of their relative rigidity in combination with their innate nonlinear dynamics, are pre-adapted for a function as mechanosensors and, in concert with the flexible actin filaments and the anisotropic cell wall, comprise a tensegral system that allows plant cells to sense geometry and to respond to fields of mechanical strains such that the load is minimized. Microtubules are proposed as elements of a sensory hub that decodes stress-related signal signatures, with phospholipase D as an important player.


cold sensing; gravisensing; mechanosensing; osmosensing; phospholipase D; plant microtubules

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