Microtubules (MTs) are cytoskeletal filaments essential for many processes in eukaryotic cells. Assembled of tubulin subunits, MTs are dynamic structures that undergo successive and stochastic phases of polymerization and depolymerization, a behavior called dynamic instability. Dynamic instability has been extensively studied in cultured cells and in vitro using cytoplasmic extracts or reconstituted MTs. However, how MTs behave in intact tissues and how their dynamics are affected by or affect tissue function are poorly understood. Recent advances in high-resolution live imaging have helped overcome technical limitation in order to visualize MTs in intact living organisms including Drosophila or Caenorhabditis elegans. We recently took advantage of the well-characterized development, small size and transparency of C. elegans to monitor MT dynamics throughout tissue biogenesis with high spatial and temporal resolution. Using the sex myoblast lineage that generates the egg-laying muscles from 2 mitotic precursors, we identified selective dynamics in precursor versus differentiated cells, and molecular regulation of MT dynamics changes that occur during cell differentiation. We discuss here how this approach led to novel insights into the regulation of MTs dynamics and organization in vivo.
Keywords: cell differentiation; cytoskeleton; high-resolution live imaging; microtubule differentiation; microtubule dynamics; tissue biogenesis.