Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Nanodomains Made Visible

In dry conditions, certain areas of the plant cell membrane are subject to significant changes. For the first time, scientists have made these so-called nanodomains visible under the microscope, investigating how they changed.
Plants are generally firmly rooted in the ground so that they cannot just move to a different place when the conditions become too dry or uncomfortable in any other way. Therefore, they must be alert to environmental changes and react appropriately.

When the conditions are favorable, the root absorbs nutrients and life-sustaining water. Above the surface of the ground, the shoot adjusts to the current light conditions, performs photosynthesis and produces components for growth, development and reproduction.

Under stress, the plants switch over from this standard program to survival mode. For this purpose, they need the ability to sense stress factors – such as heat, drought or the presence of pathogens – and to take appropriate action. They are able to do this with the help of sensors, which are each connected to a specific network.

Interconnected platforms in the membranes

"According to current knowledge, the cell membranes contain numerous tiny platforms, where certain signaling proteins interact. To some extent, these platforms possess preset interconnections. Depending on the respective signal, they are then reconfigured," explains Dr. Ines Kreuzer, a plant biologist at the University of Würzburg. Because these membrane platforms are so tiny, they are also known as nanodomains.

Reconfiguration of the nanodomains observed

As reported in the journal PNAS, Kreuzer's study group showed for the first time that the components of the drought stress signaling pathway occupy such nanodomains. In cooperation with Professor Gregory Harms at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania (USA), they were also able to trace the change in the domain composition induced by the hormone abscisic acid (ABA) under the laser microscope.

The ABA hormone is used to communicate changes in the water status between different parts of the plant. In dry conditions, high ABA levels ensure that the plant reduces its loss of water to the minimum.

Several signaling proteins involved

The team of the young Würzburg researcher identified several signaling proteins in the nanodomains as main components of the ABA signaling pathway. Kreuzer: "We are talking about the ion channel SLAH3, which is activated by the protein kinase CPK21. This kinase is controlled by the protein phosphatase ABI1. As soon as the receptor recognizes the presence of the ABA hormone, it deactivates the phosphatase and sends out the kinase to activate the ion channel. The opening of the ion channel converts the 'water shortage' signal into a flow of ions – an electrical response, in other words."

Phosphatase as "doorkeeper"

In this process, the nanodomains are a kind of "meeting place", where the reactants are given the opportunity to meet. In the absence of the drought stress hormone ABA, the phosphatase ensures that the ion channel and the kinase are no longer allowed into the membrane domains – there is no cellular response. "The processing of the hormone signal is obviously regulated on the basis of the fact that certain proteins either have or don't have access to special membrane areas, in which mechanism the phosphatase seems to perform the function of a 'doorkeeper', as Kreuzer summarizes.

The next steps of the research

Further studies are intended to show how the process in the nanodomains impacts on the nucleus. It is conceivable that drought tolerance genes are activated there, ensuring the survival of the plant even when there is a shortage of water.

Ines Kreuzer and her study group conduct research at the Department of Botany I – Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics of the University of Würzburg, headed by Professor Rainer Hedrich. Their studies are funded by the German Research Foundation within the Research Training Group 1342 (Molecular and Functional Analysis of Lipid-Based Signal Transduction Systems).

Arabidopsis nanodomain-delimited ABA signaling pathway regulates the anion channel SLAH3. Fatih Demir, Claudia Horntrich, Jörg O. Blachutzik, Sönke Scherzer, Yvonne Reinders, Sylwia Kierszniowska, Waltraud X. Schulze, Gregory S. Harms, Rainer Hedrich, Dietmar Geiger, Ines Kreuzer, PNAS, April 29, 2013, doi 10.1073/pnas.1211667110

Contact persons

Dr. Ines Kreuzer, Department of Botany I – Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics, University of Würzburg, T +49 (0) 931 31-86103,

Prof. Dr. Rainer Hedrich, Department of Botany I – Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics, University of Würzburg, T +49 (0) 931 31-86100,

Robert Emmerich | Uni Würzburg
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>