When a plant encounters drought, it does its best to cope with this stress by activating a set of protein molecules called receptors. These receptors, once activated, turn on processes that help the plant survive the stress.
A team of plant cell biologists has discovered how to rewire this cellular machinery to heighten the plants' stress response – a finding that can be used to engineer crops to give them a better shot at surviving and displaying increased yield under drought conditions.
The discovery, made in the laboratory of Sean Cutler, an associate professor of plant cell biology at the University of California, Riverside, brings drought-tolerant crops a step closer to becoming a reality.
It's the hormones
When plants encounter drought, they naturally produce abscisic acid, a stress hormone that helps them cope with the drought conditions. Specifically, the hormone turns on receptors in the plants, resulting in a suite of beneficial changes that help the plants survive. These changes typically include guard cells closing on leaves to reduce water loss, cessation of plant growth to reduce water consumption and myriad other stress-relieving responses.
The discovery by Cutler and others of abscisic acid receptors, which orchestrate these responses, was heralded by Science magazine as a breakthrough of the year in 2009 due to the importance of the receptor proteins to drought and stress tolerance.
Tweaking the receptor
Working on Arabidopsis, a model plant used widely in plant biology labs, the Cutler-led research team has now succeeded supercharging the plant's stress response pathway by modifying the abscisic acid receptors so that they can be turned on at will and stay on.
"Receptors are the cell's conductors and the abscisic acid receptors orchestrate the specific symphony that elicits stress tolerance," said Cutler, a member of UC Riverside's Institute for Integrative Genome Biology. "We've now figured out how to turn the orchestra on at will."
He explained that each stress hormone receptor is equipped with a lid that operates like a gate. For the receptor to be in the on state, the lid must be closed. Using receptor genes engineered in the laboratory, the group created and tested through more than 740 variants of the stress hormone receptor, hunting for the rare variants that caused the lid to be closed for longer periods of time.
"We found many of these mutations," Cutler said. "But each one on its own gave us only partly what we were looking for. But when we carefully stacked the right ones together, we got the desired effect: the receptor locked in its on state, which, in turn, was able to activate the stress response pathway in plants."
Study results appear in tomorrow's (Dec. 20) issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Next, the research team plans to take this basic science from the lab into the field – a process that could take many years.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc.
Cutler was joined in the research by Assaf Mosquna (a postdoctoral reseacher and the first author of the research paper), Sang-Youl Park and Jorge Lozano-Juste at UCR; and Francis C. Peterson and Brian F. Volkman at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
UCR's Office of Technology Commercialization has applied for a patent on Cutler's discovery.
The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 20,500 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.
A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Trees and climate change: Faster growth, lighter wood
14.08.2018 | Technische Universität München
Animals and fungi enhance the performance of forests
01.08.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2018 | Information Technology
17.08.2018 | Life Sciences