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Shaping Plants

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Plants would flop over in a big spongy mess were it not for the thin rods of protein inside cells called microtubules. Microtubules not only determine the shape of the cell, but also the eventual shape of the plant because plants do not have a skeleton for support.

These images helped researchers understand how microtubules—each about 2,000 times smaller than a hair—grow inside the cells of the mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In the long run, the research may open new ways for developing herbicides and drugs.

This image shows microtubules organized into a helical array along the wall of an Arabidopsis plant cell.

Untagged green fluorescent protein (GFP)
Epidermal cell pattern
Hypocotyl cell structure

View more images and movies of cellular processes

Birgit Reinert

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Shaw, S.L., Kamyar, R. & D.W. Ehrhardt. Sustained microtubule treadmilling in Arabidopsis cortical arrays. Science 300, 1715-1718 (June 13, 2003).

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