Arabidopsis – a model for the neuronal microtubule cytoskeleton?

I am writing this post in the blogging workshop of the Science Online London conference, taking place in the British library from 2-3 September 2011. The whole Saturday is devoted to using online tools such as blogs or social media in a scientific context. In this workshop we are trying to explore how we can go beyond the traditional publication format – a journal article – and for example use videos or link to websites or images.

The umbrella theme for the whole day is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic illness generally affecting small children and leading to muscle atrophy and weakness. The SMA Foundation is the leading funder of SMA research and its main aim is to accelerate the development of treatments and facilitate both collaboration between researchers and access to data.

As this blog is a plant biology blog, I was interested whether there is any link between SMA research and plant research. Indeed, I found a review paper by John Gardiner and Jan Marc, which recently has been published in the Journal of Experimental Botany with the title “Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant model organism for the neuronal microtubule cytoskeleton?”

Arabidopsis thaliana

The authors highlight similarities between the microtubular cytoskeleton in plant cells and animal neurons and discuss conserved microtubule-associated proteins (also known as MAPs). How could Arabidopsis serve as model organism for an illness affecting humans? SMA is caused by a mutation in the SMN protein which contains a tudor domain and Arabidopsis has a homologous protein which is also binding to the cytoskeleton.

Unfortunately the length of this workshop does not allow me to dive deeper into the paper, or explain some jargon terms better. But if you are interested in this, please do take a look at the article (if is Open Access – using the Wi-Fi of the British Library probably gives me an unfair advantage in regards of gaining journal access!).

Reference: Gardiner and Marc J (2011). J. Exp. Bot. 62 (1): 89-97. (link to PDF)

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