The findings, published this week, could lead to development of crops better able to withstand drought.
The research also confirms for the first time the scientific basis for what home gardeners and nursery professionals have often learned through hard experience: Transplants do better when water is withheld for a few days to drought harden them before the move.
"This phenomenon of drought hardening is in the common literature but not really in the academic literature," said Michael Fromm, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln plant scientist who was part of the research team. "The mechanisms involved in this process seem to be what we found."
Working with Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family considered an excellent model for plant research, the team of Fromm, plant molecular biologist Zoya Avramova and post-doctoral fellow Yong Ding compared the reaction of plants that had been previously stressed by withholding water to those not previously stressed.
The pre-stressed plants bounced back more quickly the next time they were dehydrated. Specifically, the nontrained plants wilted faster than trained plants and their leaves lost water at a faster rate than trained plants.
"The plants 'remember' dehydration stress. It will condition them to survive future drought stress and transplanting," Fromm said.
The team found that the trained plants responded to subsequent dehydration by increasing transcription of a certain subset of genes. During recovery periods when water is available, transcription of these genes returns to normal levels, but following subsequent drought periods the plants remember their transcriptional response to stress and induce these genes to higher levels in this subsequent drought stress.
"All of this is driven by events at the molecular level," Avramova said. "We demonstrate that this transcriptional memory is associated with chromatin changes that seem to be involved in maintaining this memory."
Arabidopsis forgets this previous stress after five days of watering, though other plants may differ in that memory time.This is the first instance of transcriptional memory found in any life form above yeasts.
This discovery may lead to breeding or engineering of crops that would better withstand drought, although practical applications of these findings in agriculture are years away, Fromm said.
"We're a long way off. We're just starting to get a basic understanding," Fromm said. "It's possible plants overreact to a first drought stress. They panic, they slow down more than they need to."
Perhaps scientists can modify those instincts in plants to help maintain or improve productivity during times of drought, he added.
But home gardeners can make immediate use of these findings.
"If I was transplanting something, I would deprive it of water for a couple of days, then water overnight, then transplant," Fromm said.
The work is the subject of an article this week in the online journal Nature Communications and is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Michael E. Fromm | Newswise Science News
Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH
Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark
28.10.2016 | Vanderbilt University
Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.
So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...
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...
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...
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...
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...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
28.10.2016 | Life Sciences
28.10.2016 | Life Sciences