Triple staining of γ-tubulin, microtubules, and nuclei reveal that three types of MTOCs initiate spindles in bryophytes. Polar organizers in liverworts and plastid MTOCs in hornworts are unique and nuclear envelope MTOCs in mosses appear like those in seed plants.
Background and aims
As remnants of the earliest land plants, the bryophytes (liverworts, mosses and hornworts) are important in understanding microtubule organization in plant cells. Land plants have an anastral mitotic spindle that forms in the absence of centrosomes, and a cytokinetic apparatus comprised of a predictive preprophase band (PPB) before mitosis and a phragmoplast after mitosis. These microtubule arrays have no counterpart in animal cells and the nature of the plant microtubule organizing centre (MTOC) remained an enigma for many years until antibodies to γ-tubulin, an essential component of the MTOC in all eukaryotes, became available for tracing the origin of microtubule arrays.
We used immunofluorescence techniques to colocalize γ-tubulin, microtubules and chromosomes in mitotic cells of a representative liverwort, moss and hornwort to study the organization of microtubules during mitotic cell division.
The future division site is marked by a PPB in all taxa but the MTOCs initially generating the half spindles differ: polar organizers in the liverwort, plastid MTOCs in the hornwort, and nuclear envelope-associated MTOCs in the moss. By mid-prophase, the forming spindles become more similar as γ-tubulin begins to spread around the polar regions of the nuclear envelope.
Regardless of origin, mature metaphase spindles are identical and indistinguishable from the typical anastral spindle of higher plants with broad polar regions consisting of numerous subsets of converging microtubules. A curious phenomenon of plant spindles, true of bryophytes as well as higher plants, is the movement of γ-tubulin into the metaphase spindle itself. The bipolar arrays of phragmoplast microtubules are organized by diffuse γ-tubulin located at proximal surfaces of reforming nuclear envelopes. Phragmoplast development appears similar in the three taxa and to vascular plants as well.