Like mother, like daughter—New microtubule arrays align to mimic parent cell

Research Areas:

Cell biology, Plant biology, Microtubule formation

Imaging Needs:

High sensitivity

Imaging System:
  • Leica DM IRB microscope
  • Yokogawa CSU22 spinning disk
  • 100x/1.4-NA objective lens
  • 488-nm argon laser excitation source
  • Hamamatsu ImagEM C9100-13 EM-CCD camera
Imaging cellular events in real time

Find out how Fang Huang, Jeorg Bewersdorf and colleagues use the sCMOS technology in the ORCA-Flash4.0 camera to achieve video-rate imaging at nanometer scales. Read now.


How do cells establish the orientation of cortical microtubules, and therefore the direction of cell growth, after mitosis?

Microtubules in the cortex—the cytoplasm underlying the outer membrane of plant cells—provide mechanical support for the cell membrane and set the direction of growth for the cell. Before mitosis, the cell disassembles its cortical microtubules. Each daughter cell reassembles them after cytokinesis, forming an array of similarly aligned cortical microtubules.


Growth of the microtubule arrays is widely considered to result from self-organization of microtubules from a random, freely aligned state. Electron micrographs show a close association of new microtubules with the cell membrane, packing them together into a nearly two-dimensional space. There, collisions at shallow angles generate bundles of co-aligned microtubules, establishing their orientation with respect to each other. It is unclear, though, what determines their alignment with respect to the cell axis.


Cortical Microtubule Arrays Are Initiated from a Nonrandom Prepattern Driven by Atypical Microtubule Initiation
Jelmer J. Lindeboom, Antonios Lioutas, Eva E. Deinum, Simon H. Tindemans, David W. Ehrhardt, Anne Mie C. Emons, Jan W. Vos, and Bela M. Mulder
Plant Physiology. 2013 Mar; 161: 1189–1201. PMCID: PMC3585589.

Lindeboom, et al,1 used time-lapse, live-cell fluorescence imaging with the Hamamatsu ImageEM 9100-13 EM-CCD camera to record the formation of cortical microtubule arrays after mitosis in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) cells. They showed that the first microtubules in new arrays were not randomly aligned, but angled diagonally relative to the cell axis, consistent with the previous array in the parent cell.

The authors go on to show that the new microtubules nucleate in non-random orientation. Simulations confirmed that the non-random nucleation, together with the mechanical co-alignment of microtubules packed against the cell membrane, were sufficient to explain the organization of cortical microtubule arrays after mitosis.


Lindeboom, et al,1 relied on high sensitivity of Hamamatsu’s ImagEM camera to track the growth of cortical microtubules in plant cells. Imagine what’s possible with the even faster capabilities and wider fields-of-view of Hamamatsu’s ORCA-Flash4.0 technology. Learn more, read Exciting Advances Push the Limits of Visualization.


  1. Lindeboom, et al. Cortical Microtubule Arrays Are Initiated from a Nonrandom Prepattern Driven by Atypical Microtubule Initiation. Plant Physiology. 2013 Mar; 161: 1189–1201. PMCID: PMC3585589.
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