It is always exciting to read a paper that describes a fascinating discovery. It is even more exciting when that discovery opens the door to so many interesting questions. The paper that brought us today’s image is a great example of this.
When biologists look at cells growing on a culture dish, the cells are usually rounded blobs. Recently, a group of cell biologists had cells grow along lines in a culture dish to examine cell elongation. Regardless of cell size, all of the cells reached similar lengths. The intrinsic “ruler” that limits the length is a population of dynamic microtubules that grow along the side of the cell during elongation, and the authors suggest that this mechanism may play a large role during development. Images show microtubules in a control cell (left) and cells grown along an adhesive line (right) at different time points after attachment. The microtubules in the elongating cells become polarized and grow along the long sides of the cells.Picone R, Ren X, Ivanovitch KD, Clarke JD, McKendry RA, & Baum B (2010). A polarised population of dynamic microtubules mediates homeostatic length control in animal cells. PLoS biology, 8 (11) PMID: 21103410