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Cellulose production is a crucial aspect of plant growth and development. It is functionally linked to cortical microtubules, which self-organize into highly ordered arrays often situated in close proximity to plasma membrane-bound cellulose synthase complexes (CSCs). Although most models put forward to explain the microtubule-cellulose relationship have considered mechanisms by which cortical microtubule arrays influence the orientation of cellulose microfibrils, little attention has been paid to how microtubules affect the physicochemical properties of cellulose. A recent study using the model system Arabidopsis, however, indicates that microtubules can modulate the crystalline and amorphous content of cellulose microfibrils. Microtubules are required during rapid growth for reducing crystalline content, which is predicted to increase the degree to which cellulose is tethered by hemicellulosic polysaccharides. Such tethering is, in turn, critical for maintaining unidirectional cell expansion. In this article, we hypothesize that cortical microtubules influence the crystalline content of cellulose either by controlling plasma membrane fluidity or by modulating the deposition of noncellulosic wall components in the vicinity of the CSCs. We discuss the current limitations of imaging technology to address these hypotheses and identify the image acquisition and processing strategies that will integrate live imaging with super resolution three-dimensional information.


Miki Fujita, Bettina Lechner, Deborah A Barton, Robyn L Overall, Geoffrey O Wasteneys. The missing link: do cortical microtubules define plasma membrane nanodomains that modulate cellulose biosynthesis? Protoplasma. 2012 Feb;249 Suppl 1:S59-67

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PMID: 22057629

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