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Curr Biol. 2013 Oct 7;23(19):1902-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.07.061. Epub 2013 Sep 19.

SPIRAL2 determines plant microtubule organization by modulating microtubule severing.

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Faculty of Life Science, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


One of the defining characteristics of plant growth and morphology is the pivotal role of cell expansion. While the mechanical properties of the cell wall determine both the extent and direction of cell expansion, the cortical microtubule array plays a critical role in cell wall organization and, consequently, determining directional (anisotropic) cell expansion. The microtubule-severing enzyme katanin is essential for plants to form aligned microtubule arrays; however, increasing severing activity alone is not sufficient to drive microtubule alignment. Here, we demonstrate that katanin activity depends upon the behavior of the microtubule-associated protein (MAP) SPIRAL2 (SPR2). Petiole cells in the cotyledon epidermis exhibit well-aligned microtubule arrays, whereas adjacent pavement cells exhibit unaligned arrays, even though SPR2 is found at similar levels in both cell types. In pavement cells, however, SPR2 accumulates at microtubule crossover sites, where it stabilizes these crossovers and prevents severing. In contrast, in the adjacent petiole cells, SPR2 is constantly moving along the microtubules, exposing crossover sites that become substrates for severing. Consequently, our study reveals a novel mechanism whereby microtubule organization is determined by dynamics and localization of a MAP that regulates where and when microtubule severing occurs.

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