The characteristic geometry of the unicellular chlorophyte Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has contributed to its adoption as a model system for cellular asymmetry and organelle positioning. The eyespot, a photosensitive organelle, is localized asymmetrically in the cell at a precisely defined position relative to the flagella and cytoskeletal microtubule rootlets. We have isolated a mutant, named pey1 for posterior eyespot, with variable microtubule rootlet lengths. The length of the acetylated daughter four-membered (D4) microtubule rootlet correlates with the position of the eyespot, which appears in a posterior position in the majority of cells. The correlation of rootlet length with eyespot positioning was also observed in the cmu1 mutant, which has longer acetylated microtubules, and the mlt1 mutant, in which the rootlet microtubules are shorter. Observation of eyespot positioning after depolymerization of rootlet microtubules indicated that eyespot position is fixed early in eyespot development and becomes independent of the rootlet. Our data demonstrate that the length of the D4 rootlet is the major determinant of eyespot positioning on the anterior-posterior axis and are suggestive that the gene product of the PEY1 locus is a novel regulator of acetylated microtubule length.
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