Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The petunia points the way to better harvests

08.03.2012
Most plants live in symbiosis with soil fungi and are supplied with water and nutrients as a result.
Based on the petunia, plant biologists at the University of Zurich have now discovered that a special transport protein is required to establish this symbiotic relationship. The targeted control of this protein could lead to greater harvests.

About 80 percent of all terrestrial plants enter into a symbiotic relationship with fungi living in the soil. The fungi provide the plant with water, important nutrients like phosphate and nitrate, and certain trace elements like zinc; the plant, on the other hand, supplies the fungus with carbohydrates. It is assumed that plants were only able to migrate onto land 400 million years ago thanks to this symbiosis.

The formation of this symbiosis is a strictly regulated process that the plant activates in low nutrient levels. The roots release the hormone strigolactone, which is detected by the fungi. The fungal hyphae grow towards the roots, penetrate the epidermis and isolated passage cells, and enter the root cortex. There, the fungal hyphae form tiny branch-like networks, which resemble little trees (arbusculum) and gave the symbiotic relationship its name: vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis.

Until about five years ago, the hormone strigolactone was known to induce and entice parasitic plant seeds in the soil to germinate. At that stage, no-one understood why plants produced this substance, which is harmful to them. Only when the new role of strigolactone in mycorrhiza formation was discovered did it become clear that the attraction of the parasites was a harmful side effect of the symbiosis.

How do strigolactones get into the soil?

Exactly how strigolactones are released into the soil from the roots and how the fungi find the specialized entry points in the roots was not known until now. The research group headed by Professor Enrico Martinoia from the University of Zurich has now found the answers to these questions in collaboration with Professor Harro Bouwmeester’s team from Wageningen in the Netherlands. “Based on the model plant the petunia, we were able to demonstrate that the protein PhPDR1 transports strigolactones,” explains Professor Martinoia. The protein belongs to the ABC-transporter family found in simple organisms like bacteria, but also in humans.

The researchers observed that PhPDR1 is expressed more highly in a low nutrient content in order to attract more symbiotic fungi, which then supply more nutrients. But there are also plants like the model plant Arabidopsis (mouse-ear cress) that do not form any mycorrhiza. If the researchers added PhPDR1, however, the Arabidopsis roots transported strigolactones again.

Improvements in yield and weed control

“Our results will help to improve the mycorrhization of plants in low-nutrient soils,” Professor Martinoia is convinced. “Mycorrhization can thus be triggered where it is inhibited due to dryness or flooding of the soils.” This would enable the plants to be nourished more effectively and achieve a greater harvest. Moreover, thanks to the discovery of the strigolactone transporter the secretion of strigolactone into the soil can be halted, which prevents parasitic plants that use up the host plants’ resources from being attracted. “This is especially important for regions in Africa, where the parasitic weed Striga and other parasitic plants regularly destroy over 60 percent of harvests,” says Martinoia.
Further reading:
Tobias Kretzschmar, Wouter Kohlen, Joelle Sasse, Lorenzo Borghi, Markus Schlegel, Julien B. Bachelier, Didier Reinhardt, Ralph Bours, Harro J. Bouwmeester and Enrico Martinoia. A petunia ABC protein controls strigolactone-dependent symbiotic signalling and branching. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature10873.
Contact:
Professor Enrico Martinoia
Institute of Plant Biology
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 634 82 22
Email: enrico.martinoia@botinst.uzh.ch

Beat Müller | idw
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>