Plant Cell Division


Cell division is characterised by the segregation of genetic material and the redistribution of cellular contents facilitated by the cytoskeleton. Plant cells derive from divisions in the meristems of developing organs. However, plant cells are enclosed in rigid cell walls, unable to migrate and change their location within tissues. Thus, positions of division planes, together with successive polarised cell expansion are the major determinants of cell shape and consequently morphology of plants. The basic building blocks of the cytoskeleton, tubulins, actins and cytoskeleton associated motor‐ and nonmotor‐proteins are conserved. Yet, plants have developed unique cytoskeletal arrays and molecular mechanism to determine the division plane very early in mitosis and to facilitate the synthesis and insertion of the partitioning cell plate at the end of cell division.

Key Concepts:

  • Plant cells utilise specialised cytoskeletal arrays to determine the division plane early in mitosis and form a cell plate to separate daughter cells late in mitosis.

  • Cell geometry and nuclear position are informative for division plane selection.

  • The preprophase band (PPB) predicts the future division plane and recruits proteins that identify the cortical division site (CDS) throughout mitosis.

  • Mutants defective in PPB or CDS establishment/maintenance exhibit mispositioned cell walls and altered cell and plant morphology.

  • Successful cell plate formation relies on cytoskeletal reorganisation and vesicle fusion.

Keywords: cell shape; cell division; cortical division site; cytoskeleton; microtubule; actin filaments preprophase band; spindle; phragmoplast; cell plate

Figure 1.

Illustration of the cytoskeletal cell cycle. In interphase microtubules (MTs, green) are organised in well‐ordered parallel arrays at the cell cortex and are also present in cytoplasmic strands connecting the nucleus with the cell periphery. The actin cytoskeleton (F‐actin, red) is a component of cytoplasmic strands, but does not display an apparent regular organisation at the cortex. In pre‐mitotic cells the nucleus acquires a central position. The cortex is almost devoid of MTs except for the equatorial region that is occupied by the preprophase band (PPB, red and green rings). Cytoplasmic strands (phragmosome) containing MTs bridge the nucleus and the plasma membrane domain occupied by the PPB. In mitosis most MTs assemble the spindle and aid in chromosome segregation. Also F‐actin is present in the spindle and in the cytosol, except for the (CDS), the domain that has been occupied by the PPB earlier in the cell cycle. The phragmoplast is shaped like a cylinder of antiparallel MTs and F‐actin in early cytokinesis. Upon fusion of Golgi‐derived vesicles in the division plane, central MTs depolymerise and novel MTs polymerise on the outside of the cylinder assuming ring‐shape. MT turn‐over and vesicle fusion drive phragmoplast expansion towards the parental cell wall and insertion of the cell plate at the CDS terminates cytokinesis.

Figure 2.

Microtubule dynamics and nucleation. Microtubule (MT) polymers are 25 nm hollow tubes composed of α and β tubulin heterodimers. The heterodimers join laterally to form the tube and assemble in a head‐to‐tail fashion creating an intrinsic polarity. MTs exhibit rapid polymerisation (rescue) and depolymerisation (shrinkage) on the designated plus end, whereas the minus end is less dynamic, behaviour described as dynamic instability. MTs are assembled from nucleation sites, which contain protein complexes that serve as templates for the MT. The nucleation sites are found at existing MTs, in the cortex and at chromatin.

Figure 3.

Establishment of the cortical division site (CDS). In G1/G2 interphase (MT) force‐dependent sensing of cell geometry aids in the migration of the nucleus towards the centre of the pre‐mitotic cell. The preprophase band (PPB) consisting of MT and F‐actin assembles in an equatorial position as a cortical belt‐like arrangement at the plasma membrane. KCA1, a plasma membrane resident kinesin becomes diminished at the PPB, whereas a number of microtubule associated proteins (MAPs, MOR1, AIR9), TANGLED, RanGAP1 and DCD1/ADD1 are recruited to the PPB/CDS. So far, only TAN and RanGAP1 have been reported to remain at the CDS throughout mitosis and cytokinesis. The localisation pattern of TAN and RanGAP1 shows a remarkable metamorphosis throughout the course of cell division, initially forming a broad band, which progressively slims and becomes punctuate during cytokinesis. Upon cell plate fusion with the parental wall, TAN and RanGAP1 disappear from the CDS. Interestingly, RanGAP1, TPLATE and AIR9 are also present at the edge of the forming cell plate, whereas TAN localisation has been reported only for the PPB/CDS. Mutation of diverse genes involved in division site establishment result in mis‐positioned cell plates (TON1, FASS, TAN, POK1 and POK2) as well as fragmented cell plates (RanGAP1, TPLATE).

Figure 4.

Phragmoplast expansion and cell plate formation. The expansion of the phragmoplast and accompanying cell plate formation requires signalling of a mitogen‐activating protein kinase (MAPK) cascade, which is activated through binding of a kinesin like protein (NACK1, HINKEL) to a MAPK kinase kinase. Successive phosphorylation of MAPK kinase, MAPK and the final target of the cascade MAP65 lead to the inactivation of MAP65 microtubule (MT) cross‐linking activity, which is necessary for depolymerisation of MTs at sites where vesicle fusion has progressed sufficiently. The phragmoplast expands towards the cortical division site (CDS) where fusion with the parental cell wall finalises cytokinesis.



Azimzadeh J, Nacry P, Christodoulidou A et al. (2008) Arabidopsis TONNEAU1 proteins are essential for preprophase band formation and interact with centrin. Plant Cell 20(8): 2146–2159.

Boruc J, Mylle E, Duda M et al. (2010) Systematic localisation of the Arabidopsis core cell cycle proteins reveals novel cell division complexes. Plant Physiology 152(2): 553–565.

Boutte Y, Frescatada‐Rosa M, Men S et al. (2010) Endocytosis restricts Arabidopsis KNOLLE syntaxin to the cell division plane during late cytokinesis. EMBO Journal 29(3): 546–558.

Buschmann H, Chan J, Sanchez‐Pulido L et al. (2006) Microtubule‐associated AIR9 recognises the cortical division site at preprophase and cell‐plate insertion. Current Biology 16(19): 1938–1943.

Camilleri C, Azimzadeh J, Pastuglia M et al. (2002) The Arabidopsis TONNEAU2 gene encodes a putative novel protein phosphatase 2A regulatory subunit essential for the control of the cortical cytoskeleton. Plant Cell 14(4): 833–845.

Chan J, Calder G, Fox S et al. (2005) Localisation of the microtubule end binding protein EB1 reveals alternative pathways of spindle development in Arabidopsis suspension cells. Plant Cell 17(6): 1737–1748.

Cleary AL and Smith LG (1998) The Tangled1 gene is required for spatial control of cytoskeletal arrays associated with cell division during maise leaf development. Plant Cell 10(11): 1875–1888.

Cutler SR and Ehrhardt DW (2002) Polarised cytokinesis in vacuolate cells of Arabidopsis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 99(5): 2812–2817.

Dhonukshe P and Gadella TW Jr (2003) Alteration of microtubule dynamic instability during preprophase band formation revealed by yellow fluorescent protein‐CLIP170 microtubule plus‐end labeling. Plant Cell 15(3): 597–611.

Dhonukshe P, Mathur J, Hulskamp M et al. (2005) Microtubule plus‐ends reveal essential links between intracellular polarisation and localised modulation of endocytosis during division‐plane establishment in plant cells. BMC Biology 3: 11.

Fendrych M, Synek L, Pečenková T et al. (2010) The Arabidopsis exocyst complex is involved in cytokinesis and cell plate maturation. The Plant Cell Online 22(9): 3053–3065.

Goodbody KC, Venverloo CJ and Lloyd CW (1991) Laser microsurgery demonstrates that cytoplasmic strands anchoring the nucleus across the vacuole of premitotic plant cells are under tension. Implications for division plane alignment. Development 113(3): 931–939.

Gunning BES and Wick SM (1985) Preprophase bands, phragmoplasts, and spatial control of cytokinesis. Journal of Cell Science 2(suppl.): 157–179.

Ho C‐MK, Hotta T, Guo F et al. (2011) Interaction of antiparallel microtubules in the phragmoplast is mediated by the microtubule‐associated protein MAP65‐3 in Arabidopsis. The Plant Cell Online 23(8): 2909–2923.

Hoshino H, Yoneda A, Kumagai F et al. (2003) Roles of actin‐depleted zone and preprophase band in determining the division site of higher‐plant cells, a tobacco BY‐2 cell line expressing GFP‐tubulin. Protoplasma 222(3–4): 157–165.

Hulskamp M, Parekh NS, Grini P et al. (1997) The STUD gene is required for male‐specific cytokinesis after telophase II of meiosis in Arabidopsis thaliana. Developmental Biology 187(1): 114–124.

Jurgens G (2005) Cytokinesis in higher plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 56: 281–299.

Karahara I, Suda J, Tahara H et al. (2009) The preprophase band is a localised center of clathrin‐mediated endocytosis in late prophase cells of the onion cotyledon epidermis. Plant Journal 57(5): 819–831.

Lauber MH, Waizenegger I, Steinmann T et al. (1997) The Arabidopsis KNOLLE protein is a cytokinesis‐specific syntaxin. The Journal of Cell Biology 139(6): 1485–1493.

Lucas JR and Sack FD (2011) Polar development of preprophase bands and cell plates in the Arabidopsis leaf epidermis. Plant Journal doi: 10.1111/j.1365‐313X.2011.04809.x.

Malcos JL and Cyr RJ (2011) An ungrouped plant kinesin accumulates at the preprophase band in a cell cycle‐dependent manner. Cytoskeleton 68(4): 247–258.

Marcus AI, Dixit R and Cyr RJ (2005) Narrowing of the preprophase microtubule band is not required for cell division plane determination in cultured plant cells. Protoplasma 226(3–4): 169–174.

Muller S (2011) Universal rules for division plane selection in plants. Protoplasma doi: 10.1007/s00709‐011‐0289‐y.

Muller S, Han S and Smith LG (2006) Two kinesins are involved in the spatial control of cytokinesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. Current Biology 16(9): 888–894.

Muller S, Smertenko A, Wagner V et al. (2004) The plant microtubule‐associated protein AtMAP65‐3/PLE is essential for cytokinetic phragmoplast function. Current Biology 14(5): 412–417.

Prusinkiewicz P (2011) Inherent randomness of cell division patterns. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(15): 5933–5934.

Rasmussen CG, Sun B and Smith LG (2011) Tangled localisation at the cortical division site of plant cells occurs by several mechanisms. Journal of Cell Science 124(part 2): 270–279.

Rodrigo‐Peiris T, Xu XM, Zhao Q et al. (2011) RanGAP is required for post‐meiotic mitosis in female gametophyte development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Journal of Experimental Botany DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erq448.

Sasabe M, Kosetsu K, Hidaka M et al. (2011) Arabidopsis thaliana MAP65‐1 and MAP65‐2 function redundantly with MAP65‐3/PLEIADE in cytokinesis downstream of MPK4. Plant Signaling & Behaviour 6(5): 743–747.

Sasabe M, Soyano T, Takahashi Y et al. (2006) Phosphorylation of NtMAP65‐1 by a MAP kinase down‐regulates its activity of microtubule bundling and stimulates progression of cytokinesis of tobacco cells. Genes & Development 20(8): 1004–1014.

Smith LG, Gerttula SM, Han S et al. (2001) Tangled1: a microtubule binding protein required for the spatial control of cytokinesis in maize. Journal of Cell Biology 152(1): 231–236.

Takahashi Y, Soyano T, Kosetsu K et al. (2010) HINKEL kinesin, ANP MAPKKKs and MKK6/ANQ MAPKK, which phosphorylates and activates MPK4 MAPK, constitute a pathway that is required for cytokinesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Cell Physiology 51(10): 1766–1776.

Takahashi Y, Soyano T, Sasabe M et al. (2004) A MAP kinase cascade that controls plant cytokinesis. Journal of Biochemistry 136(2): 127–132.

Van Damme D, Coutuer S, De Rycke R et al. (2006) Somatic cytokinesis and pollen maturation in Arabidopsis depend on TPLATE, which has domains similar to coat proteins. Plant Cell 18(12): 3502–3518.

Van Damme D, Gadeyne A, Vanstraelen M et al. (2011) Adaptin‐like protein TPLATE and clathrin recruitment during plant somatic cytokinesis occurs via two distinct pathways. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108(2): 615–620.

Van Leene J, Stals H, Eeckhout D et al. (2007) A tandem affinity purification‐based technology platform to study the cell cycle interactome in Arabidopsis thaliana. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics 6(7): 1226–1238.

Vanstraelen M, Van Damme D, De Rycke R et al. (2006) Cell cycle‐dependent targeting of a kinesin at the plasma membrane demarcates the division site in plant cells. Current Biology 16(3): 308–314.

Vos JW, Dogterom M and Emons AM (2004) Microtubules become more dynamic but not shorter during preprophase band formation: a possible ‘search‐and‐capture’ mechanism for microtubule translocation. Cell Motility & The Cytoskeleton 57(4): 246–258.

Walker KL, Muller S, Moss D et al. (2007) Arabidopsis TANGLED identifies the division plane throughout mitosis and cytokinesis. Current Biology 17(21): 1827–1836.

Wright AJ, Gallagher K and Smith LG (2009) Discordia1 and alternative discordia1 function redundantly at the cortical division site to promote preprophase band formation and orient division planes in maize. Plant Cell 21(1): 234–247.

Xu XM, Zhao Q, Rodrigo‐Peiris T et al. (2008) RanGAP1 is a continuous marker of the Arabidopsis cell division plane. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105(47): 18637–18642.

Zeng Q, Chen J‐G and Ellis BE (2011) AtMPK4 is required for male‐specific meiotic cytokinesis in Arabidopsis. The Plant Journal 67(5): 895–906.

Further Reading

Besson S and Dumais J (2011) Universal rule for the symmetric division of plant cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1011866108.

De Smet I and Beeckman T (2011) Asymmetric cell division in land plants and algae: the driving force for differentiation. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 12(3): 177–188.

Muller S, Wright AJ and Smith LG (2009) Division plane control in plants: new players in the band. Trends in Cell Biology 19(4): 180–188.

Pastuglia M and Bouchez D (2007) Molecular encounters at microtubule ends in the plant cell cortex. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 10(6): 557–563.

Rasmussen CG, Humphries JA and Smith LG (2011) Determination of symmetric and asymmetric division planes in plant cells. Annual Review of Plant Biology 62: 387–409.

Shaw SL, Kamyar R and Ehrhardt DW (2003) Sustained microtubule treadmilling in Arabidopsis cortical arrays. Science 300(5626): 1715–1718.

Smertenko AP, Piette B and Hussey PJ (2011) The origin of phragmoplast asymmetry. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.10.012.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Müller, Sabine(Mar 2012) Plant Cell Division. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023760]