In flowering plants, the interphase microtubules that are present beneath the plasma membrane become organized into specific patterns. The pattern of these cortical microtubules acts as a template that guides the pattern of deposition of cellulose microfibrils in the cell wall which in turn determines the axis of turgor-induced cell elongation (see figure). Thus, the spatial organization of cortical microtubules is central to plant cell morphogenesis. The central theme of our research is to understand how a decentralized and dispersed population of cortical microtubules becomes organized into specific patterns.

The current areas of research in the lab are listed below. Please click on the titles for additional information.

  1. Identifying the Arabidopsis microtubule plus-end complex
    We are using a biochemical approach, with Arabidopsis EB1 proteins as bait, to identify new components of the protein assembly at microtubule plus-ends.
  2. Simulating self-organization of the cortical microtubule cytoskeleton
    We are developing computer simulations and analytical models, in collaboration with Dr. Gautam at Texas A&M, to study the mechanisms underlying the self-organization of cortical microtubules into ordered patterns.
  3. In vitro reconstitution of microtubule bundling by MAP65 protein.
    We are using TIRF microscopy to study the mechanisms of microtubule bundling by Arabidopsis MAP65 protein at single molecule resolution.
  4. Mechanisms of FRA1 kinesin function
    We are studying the motility of the Arabidopsis FRA1 kinesin motor protein at a single molecule resolution using TIRF microscopy.

The organization of the cortical microtubules (top) is mirrored by the cellulose microfibrils (bottom). The transition from poor order to a well ordered, transversely oriented cortical array drives polarized plant cell elongation.