Gazing at a giant redwood tree in the Pacific Northwest, that has grown to enormous heights over centuries, does little to convince one that plants are built for speed and versatility. Even at the cellular level, a system of polymers-the cell skeleton or cytoskeleton-integrates signals and generates subcellular structures spanning scales of a few nanometers to hundreds of micrometers that coordinate cell growth. The term cytoskeleton itself connotes a stable structure. Clearly, this is not the case. Recent studies using advanced imaging modalities reveal the plant actin cytoskeleton to be a highly dynamic, ever changing assemblage of polymers. These insights along with growing evidence about the biochemical/biophysical properties of plant cytoskeletal polymers, especially those obtained by single filament imaging and reconstituted systems of purified proteins analyzed by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, allow the generation of a unique model for the dynamic turnover of actin filaments, termed stochastic dynamics. Here, we review several significant advances and highlight opportunities that will position plants at the vanguard of research on actin organization and turnover. A challenge for the future will be to apply the power of reverse-genetics in several model organisms to test the molecular details of this new model.
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