Many fungal pathogens undergo a yeast-hyphal transition during their pathogenic development that requires rearrangement of the cytoskeleton, followed by directed membrane traffic towards the growth region. The role of microtubules and their dynamic behavior during this process is not well understood. Here we set out to elucidate the organization, cellular role and in vivo dynamics of microtubules in the dimorphic phytopathogen Ustilago maydis. Hyphae and unbudded yeast-like cells of U. maydis contain bundles of spindle pole body-independent microtubules. At the onset of bud formation two spherical tubulin structures focus microtubules towards the growth region, suggesting that they support polar growth in G(2), while spindle pole body-nucleated astral microtubules participate in nuclear migration in M and early G(1). Conditional mutants of an essential alpha-tubulin gene from U. maydis, tub1, confirmed a role for interphase microtubules in determination of cell polarity and growth. Observation of GFP-Tub1 fusion protein revealed that spindle pole body-independent and astral microtubules are dynamic, with elongation and shrinkage rates comparable to those found in vertebrate systems. In addition, very fast depolymerization was measured within microtubule bundles. Unexpectedly, interphase microtubules underwent bending and rapid translocations within the cell, suggesting that unknown motor activities participate in microtubule organization in U. maydis. Movies available on-line: http://www.biologists.com/JCS/movies/jcs1792.html

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