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Microtubule organization is determined by the shape of epithelial cells.

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Gomez, Juan Manuel 
Chumakova, Lyubov 
Bulgakova, Natalia A 
Brown, Nicholas H 


Interphase microtubule organization is critical for cell function and tissue architecture. In general, physical mechanisms are sufficient to drive microtubule organization in single cells, whereas cells within tissues are thought to utilize signalling mechanisms. By improving the imaging and quantitation of microtubule alignment within developing Drosophila embryos, here we demonstrate that microtubule alignment underneath the apical surface of epithelial cells follows cell shape. During development, epidermal cell elongation and microtubule alignment occur simultaneously, but by perturbing cell shape, we discover that microtubule organization responds to cell shape, rather than the converse. A simple set of microtubule behaviour rules is sufficient for a computer model to mimic the observed responses to changes in cell surface geometry. Moreover, we show that microtubules colliding with cell boundaries zip-up or depolymerize in an angle-dependent manner, as predicted by the model. Finally, we show microtubule alignment responds to cell shape in diverse epithelia.



Animals, Cadherins, Cell Shape, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Embryo, Nonmammalian, Epithelial Cells, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Genes, Reporter, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Interphase, Larva, Luminescent Proteins, Membrane Glycoproteins, Microtubules, Morphogenesis, Optical Imaging, Pupa, Zygote

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Nature Communications

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Springer Nature
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/K00056X/1)
Wellcome Trust (092096/Z/10/Z)
Cancer Research Uk (None)
This work was supported by grant BB/K00056X/1 from the UK Biotechnology, Biological Sciences Research Council. Gurdon Institute core funding was provided by the Wellcome Trust (092096) and Cancer Research UK (C6946/A14492). L.C. was supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish Government.