The microtubule cytoskeleton and the cell wall both play key roles in plant cell growth and division, determining the plants final stature. At near weightlessness, tubulin polymerizes into microtubules in vitro, but these microtubules do not self-organize in the ordered patterns observed at 1g. Likewise, at near weightlessness cortical microtubules in protoplasts have difficulty organizing into parallel arrays, which are required for proper plant cell elongation. However, intact plants do grow in space and therefore should have a normally functioning microtubule cytoskeleton. Since the main difference between protoplasts and plant cells in a tissue is the presence of a cell wall, we studied single, but walled, tobacco BY-2 suspension-cultured cells during an 8-day space-flight experiment on board of the Soyuz capsule and the International Space Station during the 12S mission (March-April 2006). We show that the cortical microtubule density, ordering and orientation in isolated walled plant cells are unaffected by near weightlessness, as are the orientation of the cellulose microfibrils, cell proliferation, and cell shape. Likely, tissue organization is not essential for the organization of these structures in space. When combined with the fact that many recovering protoplasts have an aberrant cortical microtubule cytoskeleton, the results suggest a role for the cell wall, or its production machinery, in structuring the microtubule cytoskeleton.

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Journal Planta
Sieberer, B.J, Kieft, H, Franssen-Verheijen, T, Emons, A.M.C, & Vos, J.W. (2009). Cell proliferation, cell shape, and microtubule and cellulose microfibril organization of tobacco BY-2 cells are not altered by exposure to near weightlessness in space. Planta, 230, 1129–1140. doi:10.1007/s00425-009-1010-7