Study finds key to plant growth control mechanism

July 20, 2018 by Brian Wallheimer, Purdue University
Daniel Szymanski used the model plant Arabidopsis (in his hand) to map the complex pathways that control plant cell shape. The findings may be key to improving the quality of cotton (in the background) grown in the United States. Credit: Purdue Ag Communication photo/Tom Campbell

A Purdue University study has mapped a complex series of pathways that control the shape of plant cells. The findings are an important step toward customizing how plants grow to suit particular agronomic needs and improving the quality of the cotton grown in the United States.

Cotton production is a $25 billion industry in the United States, but the types of farmers can grow here is of lesser quality than premium Egyptian or Pima cottons, which have smaller fiber diameters. Daniel Szymanski, professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, analyzed how intracellular signaling networks pattern cell walls to generate particular cell shapes and sizes. This knowledge from the Arabidopsis model system can be used to generate cotton fiber cells with smaller diameter or increased strength.

In findings published in the journal Current Biology, Szymanski described how microtubules and actin, protein polymers that form the cytoskeletons of plant cells, are organized to specify the mechanical properties of cell walls that define cell .

Szymanski's group found that microtubules entrap a protein called SPIKE 1 within the apex of a cell where SPIKE 1 recruits additional protein machineries that cause actin filaments to form. Actin filament networks are then organized as roadways for long-distance intracellular transport and the regulated delivery of cell wall materials that are necessary for cell growth.

"SPIKE 1 is a master regulator in cells, a switch that when activated determines the time and location where actin networks are polymerized," Szymanski said.

The location and activity of SPIKE1 is important. Without it, growth is misregulated, leading to distorted cell shapes that do not taper properly. The SPIKE1 protein is one of a growing number of tools that could be used to program the size and shapes of economically important , including cotton fibers.

Szymanski said this new understanding will also likely play a broader role in designing that have different cell shapes and sizes.

"Cells are building blocks for tissues and organs, and they have the potential to influence key traits like leaf size," Szymanski said. "This work provides a knowledge base that will enable cell, tissue and organ engineering."

Explore further: Study yields insights into how plant cells grow

More information: Makoto Yanagisawa et al. Microtubule-Dependent Confinement of a Cell Signaling and Actin Polymerization Control Module Regulates Polarized Cell Growth, Current Biology (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.076

Related Stories

Study yields insights into how plant cells grow

March 10, 2015

A study by Purdue University plant scientists and University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers advances our understanding of how plants control their shape and development at the cellular level.

Cytoskeletons shaking hands

June 3, 2015

Animal cells harbor three types of cytoskeletal elements: actin filaments, intermediate filaments and microtubules. Despite their name, cytoskeletons are very dynamic structures, which undergo rapid reorganization in cells ...

Recommended for you

A decade on, smartphone-like software finally heads to space

March 20, 2019

Once a traditional satellite is launched into space, its physical hardware and computer software stay mostly immutable for the rest of its existence as it orbits the Earth, even as the technology it serves on the ground continues ...

Tiny 'water bears' can teach us about survival

March 20, 2019

Earth's ultimate survivors can weather extreme heat, cold, radiation and even the vacuum of space. Now the U.S. military hopes these tiny critters called tardigrades can teach us about true toughness.

Researchers find hidden proteins in bacteria

March 20, 2019

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a way to identify the beginning of every gene—known as a translation start site or a start codon—in bacterial cell DNA with a single experiment and, through ...

Turn off a light, save a life, says new study

March 20, 2019

We all know that turning off lights and buying energy-efficient appliances affects our financial bottom line. Now, according to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, we know that saving energy also saves ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2018
These findings may also prove to be useful in future settlements of planet Mars where underground living conditions may be restrictive for farming produce due to limited space.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.