In short, they are suffering from stress. Scientists from VIB, associated with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven), have revealed a new mechanism demonstrating the intricate ways in which plants deal with stress. The newly discovered control system has a remarkable way of orchestrating the activity of hundreds of genes, forcing the plant into ‘safety mode’; the consumption of energy is contained while the organism is stimulated to mobilize reserves. This may have a negative impact on growth, but it allows the plant to temporarily safeguard itself against pernicious stress conditions. These findings also may prove to be useful beyond the case of plants, for the results are likely to be valuable in understanding disorders such as cancer and diabetes.
Life thanks to plants
Plants catch sunlight and use it as an energy source to produce sugars from CO2 and water. In doing so, they are at the very basis of the food chain. Ultimately, all life on earth depends upon this biochemical process: photosynthesis. Without plants, life as we know it today would simply not be possible. But what if things go wrong? When there is too little sunlight, for example? And what with other stressful conditions for plants? Environmental changes can compromise photosynthesis and exhaust energy supplies.
Plants control their own energy balance
Fortunately, plants have developed different mechanisms to detect and cope with 'stress’. Together with his American colleagues at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA), VIB scientist Filip Rolland, associated with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is uncovering a new system of detection and control. It is driven by KIN10 and KIN11. These ‘kinases’ – which are also found in human beings – react to energy shortages, when, for example, there is too little sunlight or too little sugar production. They control the activity of a broad network of genes, promoting the release of energy (catabolism) from alternative sources and blocking its assimilation (anabolism). In this way, the plant protects itself against stress conditions; like a really bad summer.
The key players: KIN10 & KIN11
The model organism for this study was Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress. For decades, this small weed has been used as a model in molecular and genetic plant research. The scientists have tested numerous stress conditions that affect photosynthesis and energy production, such as darkness, herbicide treatment and flooding (lack of oxygen). By overexpressing the KIN10 gene, causing the plant to produce more of this protein, stress tolerance is increased and plants survive longer. By switching off these genes, their control function is eliminated.
With this research, the Flemish and American scientists have succeeded for the first time in attributing KIN10 and KIN11 a key role in the control of the plant energy budget and metabolism and thus the fragile balance between growth and survival; in short, the choice between life and death.
Are humans similar to plants?
The new insights gained by this study are not limited to the functioning of plants; they may also be important for human beings. KIN10 and KIN11, as ’fuel gauges’ controlling the expression of a whole set of genes, are also found in mammals. The results with plants, therefore, may play a pioneering role in discovering new functions of these proteins in disorders such as diabetes, cancer, obesitas, and aging.
Ann Van Gysel | alfa
“How trees coexist” – new findings from biodiversity research published in Nature Communications
21.03.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden
Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars
20.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
21.03.2018 | Life Sciences