Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Calcium waves help the roots tell the shoots

04.04.2014

For Simon Gilroy, sometimes seeing is believing. In this case, it was seeing the wave of calcium sweep root-to-shoot in the plants the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of botany is studying that made him a believer.

Gilroy and colleagues, in a March 24, 2014 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed what long had been suspected but long had eluded scientists: that calcium is involved in rapid plant cell communication.

It's a finding that has implications for those interested in how plants adapt to and thrive in changing environments. For instance, it may help agricultural scientists understand how to make more salt- or drought-tolerant plants.

"How do you think plants live?" Gilroy asks. "If I poke you, I see an instant response. You move away. Plants live in a slightly different world. They are rooted to the ground, literally, and they respond to the world either by growing or creating chemicals."

Calcium is involved in transmitting information in the cells of humans and other animals, contracting muscles, sending nerve signals and more.

In plants, scientists believed it had to also play a role in processing information and sending rapid signals so that plants can respond quickly to their environments.

Imagine you are a plant being eaten by a caterpillar: "It's like a lion chewing your leg," says Gilroy. "If an insect is chewing your leaf, you're gone unless you determine something effective immediately."

But no one had ever been able to see it before. Even Gilroy's team found it by accident.

The team was using a specific calcium sensor they thought wasn't going to work. They speculated it could serve as a control in their studies.

The sensor's brightness changes in the presence of calcium, displayed on screen as a change from green to red through a process known as fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET. Typically, this particular sensor is so sensitive to calcium it is nearly always red.

But when researchers applied stress to the tip of a plant's roots — a high concentration of sodium chloride salt — it triggered a wave of red that traveled rapidly from the root to the top of the plant.

"We were kind of like, 'Why is it even working?' says Gilroy. "It was probably telling us we were looking in the wrong realm. It's like we could only hear the people shouting and we couldn't hear the talking."

The calcium wave, a flush of red on an otherwise green palette, traveled on a scale of milliseconds, traversing about eight plant cells per second — too quick to be explained by simple diffusion of salt.

"It fit with a lot of our models," Gilroy says. "But the idea that it's a wave is one step beyond what our models would predict."

Within 10 minutes of applying a small amount of salt to the plants' roots, typical stress response genes were turned on in the plant.

Also turned on was the machinery to make more of a protein channel called two pore channel 1 (TPC1). Within one-to-two minutes, there was 10 times more of the building blocks needed to make the channel, which is thought to be involved in calcium signaling.

Gilroy and his team then looked at plants with a defect in TPC1. They had a much slower calcium wave — about 25 times slower — than plants with normal TPC1. When they studied plants expressing more of the TPC1 protein, the calcium wave moved 1.7 times faster.

Plants with more channels also grew larger and contained more chlorophyll than plants with normal or mutated TPC1 when grown in salt water.

The protein channel is present in all land plants, says Gilroy, and it's found throughout the plant. This is one of the many reasons it surprised the team to learn the calcium wave moves only through specific cells in the plant, like electrical signals moving through nerve cells in humans and other animals.

"We weren't expecting that," Gilroy says. "It means specific cell types have specific functions … there must be something special about those cells. We're really at the beginning."

The lab is now looking at the molecular machinery that makes up TPC1, to figure out how the parts of the channel work.

And now that the scientists know that calcium talks, the volume is turned up. The work is just getting started.

"We can hear the screaming," says Gilroy. "Now we're trying to see what the vocal chords are doing."

###

Kelly April Tyrrell, 608-262-9772, april@wisc.edu

Simon Gilroy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

Further reports about: Calcium Plants Wisconsin-Madison animals environments machinery shoots signals waves

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>