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: email@example.com
Carina Eliasson | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Learning from Nature: Genomic database standard alleviates search for novel antibiotics
02.09.2015 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
Orang-utan females prefer cheek-padded males
02.09.2015 | Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...
The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.
Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...
Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.
"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
02.09.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
02.09.2015 | Life Sciences
02.09.2015 | Awards Funding