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 cortical division site (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 microtubule (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.



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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.

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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.

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