Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’MicroRNAs’ control plant shape and structure

21.08.2003


New discoveries about tiny genetic components called microRNAs explain why plant leaves are flat.



The study may be a first step, researchers say, in revolutionizing our understanding of how plants control their morphology, or shape. A plant’s ability to grow structures with a specific shape is critical to its normal function of capturing energy from the sun and producing products like grain and fiber.

As such, these findings could ultimately have profound implications for advances in agriculture.


The research was published online today in Nature, a scientific journal, by scientists from Oregon State University, the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Salk Institute in California.

Understanding the genetic basis of plant shape is just one of the first outgrowths of research done with microRNAs, tiny bits of genetic material with powerful abilities to control gene "expression." Careful regulation of large sets of genes allows plants to specify which cells turn into leaf, root or other types of cells.

MicroRNAs work like a digital radar system to hone in on target genes. The target gene messenger RNA, which is the critical molecule that communicates normal gene functions, is either destroyed or inactivated through molecular processes that are directed by the microRNA. It is this type of negative regulation, or turning off expression of specific genes, that triggers development of plant parts with the proper shape.

"In this study we’ve demonstrated the real life consequences of a microRNA, showing how regulated destruction of a set of messenger RNA targets controls the shape of a plant’s leaf," said James Carrington, professor and director of the Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology at OSU.

Collaborative research teams led by Detlef Weigel at the Max Planck Institute and Salk Institute, and Carrington at OSU, identified a microRNA they called "JAW," and five specific "TCP" target genes that collectively control cellular division in plant leaves and other organs. The work was done using Arabidopsis, a small leafy plant in the mustard family.

They showed that, to make a flat leaf, microRNAs need to target and destroy the TCP target genes at the right time and at the right place in the plant as it develops. If Arabidopsis makes too much microRNA JAW, then leaves are crinkled and wrinkly. This is because too much microRNA overloads the normal balance of TCP gene expression, which then causes too much cell division in growing leaves. The result is too many cells to crowd into a relatively flat space.

"Think about trying to lay a carpet in a room that is too small," Carrington said. "The only way to fit it all in is to introduce bulges and ripples. This is what happens when microRNA JAW does not properly regulate the TCP genes. There are too many cells that are forced into the leaf plane, resulting in the introduction of improper curvature."

"This is among the first demonstrations that microRNAs control a specific developmental process, and the work opens the possibility of an entirely new layer of controlling plant morphogenesis," said Weigel.

According to the researchers, the "flatness" of a plant leaf is of considerable biological importance.

"Plants evolved flat leaves for important functional reasons," Carrington said. "A flat surface captures more light and energy from the sun. Plants also have cells on their top surfaces that are specially designed for that purpose. On the underside, leaves are more specialized for gas exchange. The whole process is remarkably efficient, and that is due in part to formation of leaves with the proper shape."

As more and more microRNAs are discovered and their role in plant growth and development becomes clear, the entire process of genetic manipulation of plants for useful purposes may become far more precise and vast new opportunities may open up to produce more efficient or productive plants.

"We will probably discover microRNAs that function in most aspects of plant growth and development, including flowering, root structure and seed production," Carrington said. "The potential impacts of this could be quite large."


###
By David Stauth, 541-737-0787
SOURCES: James Carrington, 541-737-3347
Detlef Weigel, 49-7071-601-1411


James Carrington | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.orst.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space
26.04.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Multifunctional bacterial microswimmer able to deliver cargo and destroy itself
26.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Why we need erasable MRI scans

New technology could allow an MRI contrast agent to 'blink off,' helping doctors diagnose disease

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World's smallest optical implantable biodevice

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space

26.04.2018 | Life Sciences

First Li-Fi-product with technology from Fraunhofer HHI launched in Japan

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>