Most plants try to turn towards the sun. Scientists from the University of Gothenburg have worked with Finnish colleagues to understand how light-sensitive proteins in plant cells change when they discover light. The results have been published in the most recent issue of Nature.
The family of proteins involved is known as the “phytochrome” family, and these proteins are found in all plant leaves. These proteins detect the presence of light and inform the cell whether it is day or night, or whether the plant is in the shade or the sun.
“You can think of them as the plant’s ‘eyes’. Our study has shown how these eyes work at the molecular level,” explains Sebastian Westenhoff at the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Gothenburg.
Molecules change in the light
Most plants try to avoid the shade and grow towards the light, which enables them, among other things, to consume more carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Proteins known as “phytochromes” control this process. The phytochromes in the plants are thus changed through the light radiation, and signals are passed onwards to the cells.
Phytochromes have, as do most other proteins, a three-dimensional molecular structure. Light is absorbed by the phytochromes and the structure of the protein changes.
The scientists have studied this structural change in phytochromes from bacteria, since it is possible to obtain sufficient material to work on from bacteria.
“We already knew that some form of structural change was taking place, since the light signals must be transferred onwards to the cell. What we didn’t know, however, was how the structure changed, and this is what we have revealed. Nearly the complete molecule is rebuilt,” says Sebastian Westenhoff.
More efficient crops
The discovery increases our understanding of how phytochromes work. This may, in turn, lead to new strategies in the development of more efficient crops, which may be able to grow where there is little light.
“Proteins are the factories and machines of life, and their structures change when they carry out their specific tasks. At the moment, it’s usually not possible to determine these changes. But I believe that we can use similar experiments to determine many important structural changes in phytochromes and other proteins,” says Sebastian Westenhoff.
New measurement method
A new measurement method that Sebastian Westenhoff has developed has made the study possible. This method is based on using laser light to initiate the structural change. X-rays are then used to image the structural change.
The project has its origin in an approach made by scientist Janne Ihalainen from the University of Jyväslkyla two years ago.
“He asked whether we could use my method on phytochromes, which he had recently started working on.”
Link to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13310
Sebastian Westenhoff, Department for Chemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Gothenburg
Tel: +46 31 786 3936, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carina Eliasson | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
An evolutionary heads-up – The brain size advantage
22.05.2015 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Endocrine disrupting chemicals in baby teethers
21.05.2015 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.
RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...
Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a gel filled with toxin-absorbing nanosponges that could lead to an effective treatment for skin and wound infections caused by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This "nanosponge-hydrogel" minimized the growth of skin lesions on mice infected with MRSA - without the use of antibiotics. The researchers recently published their findings online in Advanced Materials.
To make the nanosponge-hydrogel, the team mixed nanosponges, which are nanoparticles that absorb dangerous toxins produced by MRSA, E. coli and other...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
22.05.2015 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2015 | Information Technology
22.05.2015 | Materials Sciences