The origin of phragmoplast asymmetry

Curr Biol. 2011 Nov 22;21(22):1924-30. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.10.012. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


The phragmoplast coordinates cytokinesis in plants [1]. It directs vesicles to the midzone, the site where they coalesce to form the new cell plate. Failure in phragmoplast function results in aborted or incomplete cytokinesis leading to embryo lethality, morphological defects, or multinucleate cells [2, 3]. The asymmetry of vesicular traffic is regulated by microtubules [1, 4, 5, 6], and the current model suggests that this asymmetry is established and maintained through treadmilling of parallel microtubules. However, we have analyzed the behavior of microtubules in the phragmoplast using live-cell imaging coupled with mathematical modeling and dynamic simulations and report that microtubules initiate randomly in the phragmoplast and that the majority exhibit dynamic instability with higher turnover rates nearer to the midzone. The directional transport of vesicles is possible because the majority of the microtubules polymerize toward the midzone. Here, we propose the first inclusive model where microtubule dynamics and phragmoplast asymmetry are consistent with the localization and activity of proteins known to regulate microtubule assembly and disassembly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytokinesis*
  • Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Tobacco / cytology*
  • Tobacco / metabolism*
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Tubulin