Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists unveil a molecular mechanism that controls plant growth and development

Researchers from Spain and the Netherlands reveal how auxin hormone-regulated proteins activate developmental genes in plants

A joint study published in Cell by the teams headed by Miquel Coll at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the Institute of Molecular Biology of CSIC, both in Barcelona, and Dolf Weijers at the University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands, unravels the mystery behind how the plant hormones called auxins activate multiple vital plant functions through various gene transcription factors.

This shows the atomic structure of an ARF/DNA complex. Auxins control the growth and development of plants through ARF

Credit: (Author: R. Boer, IRB/CSIC)

Auxins are plant hormones that control growth and development, that is to say, they determine the size and structure of the plant. Among their many activities, auxins favor cell growth, root initiation, flowering, fruit setting and delay ripening. Auxins have practical applications and are used in agriculture to produce seedless fruit, to prevent fruit drop, and to promote rooting, in addition to being used as herbicides. The biomedical applications of these hormones as anti-tumor agents and to facilitate somatic cell reprogramming (the cells that form tissues) to stem cells are also being investigated.

The effects of auxins in plants was first observed by Darwin in 1881, and since then this hormone has been the focus of many studies. However, although it was known how and where auxin is synthesized in the plant, how it is transported, and the receptors on which it acts, it was unclear how a hormone could trigger such diverse processes.

At the molecular level, the hormone serves to unblock a transcription factor, a DNA-binding protein, which in turn activates or represses a specific group of genes. Some plants have more than 20 distinct auxin-regulated transcription factors. They are called ARFs (Auxin Response Factors) and control the expression of numerous plant genes in function of the task to be undertaken, that is to say, cell growth, flowering, root initiation, leaf growth etc.

Using the Synchrotron Alba, near Barcelona, and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, in Grenoble, Dr. Miquel Coll, a structural biologist and his team analyzed the DNA binding mode used by various ARFs. For this purpose, the scientists prepared crystals of complexes of DNA and ARF proteins obtained by Dolf Weijers team in Wageningen, and then shot the crystals with high intensity X-rays in the synchrotron to resolve their atomic structure. The resolution of five 3D structures has revealed why a given transcription factor is capable of activating a single set of genes, while other ARFs that are very similar with only slight differences trigger a distinct set.

"Each ARF recognizes and adapts to a particular DNA sequence through two binding arms or motifs that are barrel-shaped, and this adaptation differs for each ARF," explains Roeland Boer, postdoctoral researcher in Miquel Coll's group at IRB Barcelona, and one of the first authors of the study.

The ARF binding mode to DNA has never been described in bacteria or animals. "It appears to be exclusive to plants, but we cannot rule out that it is present in other kingdoms. Our finding is highly relevant because we have revealed the ultimate effect of a hormone that controls plant development on DNA, that is to say, on genes." says Miquel Coll.

Reference article: Structural basis for DNA binding specificity by the auxin-dependent ARF transcription factors
D. Roeland Boer, Alejandra Freire-Rios, Willy van den Berg, Terrens Saaki, Iain W. Manfield, Stefan Kepinski, Irene López-Vidrieo, Jose Manuel Franco, Sacco C. de Vries, Roberto Solano, Dolf Weijers, and Miquel Coll

Cell (2014)

More information: Sònia Armengou. Oficina de prensa.Institut de Recerca Biomèdica (IRB). 93 403 72 55/ 618 294 070

Sònia Armengou | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

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...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

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...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

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...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

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...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>