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
Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement
26.06.2017 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine
New insight into a central biological dogma on ion transport
26.06.2017 | Aarhus University
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology