How selective severing by katanin promotes order in the plant cortical microtubule array [Plant Biology]
Plant morphogenesis requires differential and often asymmetric growth. A key role in controlling anisotropic expansion of individual cells is played by the cortical microtubule array. Although highly organized, the array can nevertheless rapidly change in response to internal and external cues. Experiments have identified the microtubule-severing enzyme katanin as a central player in controlling the organizational state of the array. Katanin action is required both for normal alignment and the adaptation of array orientation to mechanical, environmental, and developmental stimuli. How katanin fulfills its controlling role, however, remains poorly understood. On the one hand, from a theoretical perspective, array ordering depends on the “weeding out” of discordant microtubules through frequent catastrophe-inducing collisions among microtubules. Severing would reduce average microtubule length and lifetime, and consequently weaken the driving force for alignment. On the other hand, it has been suggested that selective severing at microtubule crossovers could facilitate the removal of discordant microtubules. Here we show that this apparent conflict can be resolved by systematically dissecting the role of all of the relevant interactions in silico. This procedure allows the identification of the sufficient and necessary conditions for katanin to promote array alignment, stresses the critical importance of the experimentally observed selective severing of the “crossing” microtubule at crossovers, and reveals a hitherto not appreciated role for microtubule bundling. We show how understanding the underlying mechanism can aid with interpreting experimental results and designing future experiments.
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