Plants draw the necessary nutrients from the soil through their roots. Because they do this best with a well-branched root system, plants must form offshoots of their roots at the right moment. The VIB researchers describe how this process is controlled in the prominent professional journal Science.
A key player in this process is a protein called ACR4. Depending on the signals that it receives from its environment, this protein triggers the formation of a root offshoot. Now that we know the control mechanism, we can begin to stimulate plant roots to form more, or fewer, offshoots. This can lead to a more ecological agriculture and to the production of better crops at the same time.An efficient network
These stem cells are found inside the root, and several of them will induce the formation of an offshoot. These ‘root-founder’ cells undergo an asymmetric cell division. In contrast to the usual cell division, which gives rise to two identical cells, asymmetric cell division produces two different cells: a stem cell that is identical to the original cell, and a cell that is ready to become a specialized cell – in this case, a secondary root cell.The decisive signal
On the other hand, slowing down secondary root formation can be advantageous in tuberous plants, like potatoes or sugar beets. This enables these food crops to invest all their energy in the production of nutrients. Fewer root offshoots also makes it easier for farmers to harvest these crops.
For example, irregular cell division plays a role in the development of various types of cancer, and similar control mechanisms might underlie this process as well. This is clearly an important area for future research.
Sooike Stoops | alfa
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