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Name: Danbi
Status: Student
Grade:  Other
Location: N/A
Country: United States
Date: December 2006


Question:
My teacher told me that in the process of Mitosis in plants, where the spindle fibres are formed has not been yet identified. (since plants don't have centrioles) Is this true?



Replies:
Your teacher is correct that most plant cells, as well as fungi, do not contain distinct centrioles, as such. But microtubular spindle fibers and a mitotic process comparable to that of animal cells are still observable. Microtubule assembly is initiated by 'microtubule-organizing centers' (MTOC), which consist of 'pericentriolar material', including -tubulin, and are distributed around the nuclear envelope. The online textbook, 'Molecular Cell Biology', briefly summarizes these unique properties of plant cell mitosis:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=mcb.section.5499#5502

Unfortunately, the accompanying Figure 19-38 is unavailable for viewing online. However, I do have a print version of this textbook with copy of the figure. It shows that migration of the sister chromatids to opposite poles of the mitotic spindle is very similar to that of animal cells. The main difference appears to be that the chromatids are not as concentrated as if they were attracted to a single centriole, like in animal cells.

But the more noticeable difference is in how the shape of the plant cell doesn't change as much as an animal cell does because it's surrounded by the rigid cell wall, as descibed in the 'Molecular Cell Biology' summary. Perhaps this reduced change in shape might help to explain why centrioles are not as necessary for plant cell mitosis. Since mitotic plant cells don't elongate as much as animal cells, the chromatids might not need to migrate as strongly toward opposites poles of the mitotic spindle to still maintain their efficient distribution into the plant daughter cells.

Thanks for the great question,

Jeff Buzby, Ph.D.



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