When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the lab), some herbaceous plants overcompensate – producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration.
They report their findings in the journal Molecular Ecology.
Their study is the first to show that a plant’s ability to dramatically rebound after being cut down relies on a process called genome duplication, in which individual cells make multiple copies of all of their genetic content.
Genome duplication is not new to science; researchers have known about the phenomenon for decades. But few have pondered its purpose, said University of Illinois animal biology professor Ken Paige, who conducted the study with postdoctoral researcher Daniel Scholes.
“Most herbaceous plants – 90 percent – duplicate their genomes,” Paige said. “We wanted to know what this process was for.”
In a 2011 study, Paige and Scholes demonstrated that plants that engage in rampant genome duplication also rebound more vigorously after being damaged. The researchers suspected that genome duplication was giving the plants the boost they needed to overcome adversity.
That study and the new one focused on Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant in the mustard family that often is used as a laboratory subject. Some Arabidopsis plants engage in genome duplication and others don’t. Those that do can accumulate dozens of copies of all of their chromosomes in individual cells.
In the new study, Scholes crossed Arabidopsis plants that had the ability to duplicate their genomes with those that lacked this ability. If the relationship between DNA duplication and regeneration was mere happenstance, the association between the two should disappear in their offspring, Scholes said.
“But the association persisted in the offspring,” he said. “That’s the first line of evidence that these two traits seem to be influencing each other.”
To further test the hypothesis, Scholes experimentally enhanced an Arabidopsis plant’s ability to duplicate its genome. He chose a line that lacked that ability and that also experienced a major reduction in fertility after being grazed.
As expected, the altered plant gained the ability to vigorously rebound after being damaged, the researchers reported.
“We were able to completely mitigate the otherwise detrimental effects of damage,” Scholes said. “There was no difference in fertility between damaged and undamaged plants.”
Genome duplication enlarges cells and provides more copies of individual genes, likely increasing the production of key proteins and other molecules that drive cell growth, Scholes said. Future studies will test these ideas, he said.
The National Science Foundation and U. of I. Research Board funded this research.
Diana Yates | EurekAlert!
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine