Researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in Germany
are providing new insights into basic cell division in plants. The team has
now understood how processes are coordinated that are pivotal in properly
separating daughter cells during cell division.
The researchers examined the roots of Arabidopsis thaliana. They grew normal
plants and plants in which they artificially switched off certain enzymes
affecting the composition of the membranes to find out which membrane
building blocks are important for cell division and why.
Professor Ingo Heilmann from MLU and his research group was able to show
that PI4P, a membrane building block, plays two roles during cell division:
PI4P not only controls the activity of the fusion machinery, it also ensures
the new material is transported in the right direction. For the first time,
the researchers were able to show that PI4P helps to ensure that the protein
scaffold of the phragmoplast is assembled and disassembled in the right
In normal plants, this results in regular cells that fit together perfectly
and give the plant its needed stability. In the mutated plants, however,
severe defects in cell division were found. The results also show the
dynamics of the plant's cytoskeleton of microtubules. The cytoskeleton not
only determines the direction of cellular transport processes during cell
division, but also directs general plant growth.