Biologists discover gene that helps roots limit leaf growth
A University of Utah study identified a gene that helps a plants roots send chemical signals that makes leaves grow. A thale cress seedling with the normal gene (above) produced four leaves plus two smaller cotyledons or embryonic leaves. But when the gene is disabled, the seedling (closeup view below) produced only two cotyledons and no normal leaves. Photo by Jaimie Van Norman, University of Utah.
University of Utah biologists discovered a gene that allows a plants roots to tell the leaves to stop growing, presumably when water is scarce, soil is too compacted or other conditions are bad.
While roots obviously carry food and water to the leaves, the new findings help show how roots also send chemical signals that control whether or not leaves grow. How leaves grow is a crucial matter given that leafy plants supply food for humans and other creatures, produce oxygen for all animals to breathe, influence global climate and grace us with the current season of brilliant fall colors. "When we look at plants, its easy to think only about the above-ground parts you can see," says Leslie Sieburth, who led the study and is an associate professor of biology at the University of Utah. "But this study shows that the roots potentially play a huge role – in addition to supplying water and nutrients – in controlling how the plant comes to look as it does. Its very easy to ignore the root, but our study shows we shouldnt."
Jaimie Van Norman, | EurekAlert!
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