Model for the orientational ordering of the plant microtubule cortical array

Rhoda J. Hawkins, Simon H. Tindemans, and Bela M. Mulder
Phys. Rev. E 82, 011911 – Published 19 July 2010


The plant microtubule cortical array is a striking feature of all growing plant cells. It consists of a more or less homogeneously distributed array of highly aligned microtubules connected to the inner side of the plasma membrane and oriented transversely to the cell growth axis. Here, we formulate a continuum model to describe the origin of orientational order in such confined arrays of dynamical microtubules. The model is based on recent experimental observations that show that a growing cortical microtubule can interact through angle dependent collisions with pre-existing microtubules that can lead either to co-alignment of the growth, retraction through catastrophe induction or crossing over the encountered microtubule. We identify a single control parameter, which is fully determined by the nucleation rate and intrinsic dynamics of individual microtubules. We solve the model analytically in the stationary isotropic phase, discuss the limits of stability of this isotropic phase, and explicitly solve for the ordered stationary states in a simplified version of the model.

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  • Received 7 December 2009


©2010 American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

Rhoda J. Hawkins1,2,*, Simon H. Tindemans1,†, and Bela M. Mulder1

  • 1FOM Institute AMOLF, Science Park 104, 1098 XG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2UMR 7600, Université Pierre et Marie Curie/CNRS, 4 Place Jussieu, 75255 Paris Cedex 05 France

  • *Present address: Department of Mathematics, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TW, UK;
  • Present address: Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK;

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Vol. 82, Iss. 1 — July 2010

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