Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New biosensor provides insight into the stress behaviour of plants


They are tiny signalling molecules that play important roles in many processes in living organisms. However, the exact function of these substances is often still unknown. International researchers have developed a method with which they can further investigate an important messenger substance in plants - phosphatidic acid. Using a new biosensor, they are able to track the activity of phosphatidic acid spatially and temporally for the first time. The method is also interesting for the investigation of plants that are exposed to stress such as salty soils. The study was published in "Nature Plants".

They are tiny signalling molecules that play important roles in many processes in living organisms. However, the exact function of these substances is often still unknown, which is why scientists are constantly on the lookout for new methods with which they can further investigate them.

Microscopy images (FRET method) of three different regions of a root showing changes in phosphatidic acid under salt stress over time (from left to right).

W. Li et al./ Nature Plants

Researchers at the Universities of Münster (Germany) and Nanjing (China) have developed such a method for an important messenger substance in plants, called phosphatidic acid.

This lipid takes on different roles in the organism: It influences the flexibility and bending of cell membranes, regulates the metabolism of the plant and also serves as a signalling substance to regulate the localization or activity of proteins.

However, researchers have not been able to find out which part of the phosphatidic acid pool in the cell has a function for the metabolism and which part serves as a signalling substance.

A biosensor developed by German and Chinese scientists has now changed this: By incorporating this sensor into plants, they were able to track the activity of the phosphatidic acid spatially and temporally for the first time.

"Our approach enables us to elucidate the dynamics of phosphatidic acid more precisely, especially in plants under stress," says co-author Prof. Jörg Kudla from the University of Münster. A plant is stressed, for example, when exposed to dry or salty soils. The measurements obtained with the new method could in future help to breed plants that are more resilient to adverse environmental conditions. The study was published in the journal "Nature Plants".

Background and methods:

Until now, scientists had only been able to measure the occurrence of phosphatidic acid biochemically and thus determined the total amount of the lipid in a certain tissue or organism. It remained unclear in which cells or in which parts of these cells the substance was active and why its concentration changed.

The newly developed biosensor is based on the principle of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). The sensor is a plasma membrane targeted fusion protein of a phosphatidic acid binding domain placed between two different fluorescent proteins that fluoresce blue and yellow when stimulated by light.

Binding of phosphatidic acid to this sensor changes its conformation and this results in a change of the colour of the emitted light. Therefore, the new sensor is called "PAleon", which is derived from the abbreviation PA for phosphatidylic acid and chameleon. The scientists measure these signals using modern microscopy methods.

In this way, the researchers looked at the roots and guard cells of Arabidopsis plants. They observed different regions in the roots and exposed them to different stimuli, such as increased salt concentration of the growth media. The colours under the microscope showed how and where the distribution and concentration of phosphatidic acid changed.

In their investigations the researchers observed that, if the salt stress for the plants increased, the concentration of phosphatidic acid in roots also increased. In addition, the researchers were also able to determine the location in the roots where the changes took place. "Since the sensor only detects the so-called bioactive amount, we can conclude that the changes in phosphatidic acid concentration and distribution which we detected is due to its function as a signalling substance," said Jörg Kudla. It should be remembered that phosphatidic acid can also play a role in metabolic processes and movements of the cell membrane.

With their new method, the scientists have already discovered that the activity of a certain protein that synthesizes phosphatidic acid, phospholipase D, is important for plants to adapt to salt stress. In addition, the substance is obviously closely related to the pH value of a cell. "Our method has already provided us with fundamental new insights into the mechanisms of salt tolerance in plants," says Prof. Wenhua Zhang, lead author of the study at Nanjing University in China.

The procedure should be applicable in most plant organisms and also transferable to animal cells and organisms. In their next steps, the scientists intend to use the sensor in other cell and tissue regions and also to investigate the functional interactions of phosphatidic acid with other messenger substances.


The study received financial support by the German Research Foundation and the Chinese National Science Foundation.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Jörg Kudla - University of Münster
Phone: +49 251 83-24813


W. Li et al. (2019): Tissue specific accumulation of pH-sensing phosphatidic acid determines plant stress tolerance. Nature plants; DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0497-6

Weitere Informationen: Original publication in "Nature plants" Research group Jörg Kudla at Münster University Wenhua Zhang at Nanjing Agricultural University

Svenja Ronge | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Biosensor Metabolism phosphatidic acid proteins

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First SARS-CoV-2 genomes in Austria openly available
03.04.2020 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

nachricht Do urban fish exhibit impaired sleep? Light pollution suppresses melatonin production in European perch
03.04.2020 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Harnessing the rain for hydrovoltaics

Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.

Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...

Im Focus: A sensational discovery: Traces of rainforests in West Antarctica

90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous

An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...

Im Focus: Blocking the Iron Transport Could Stop Tuberculosis

The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.

One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...

Im Focus: Physicist from Hannover Develops New Photon Source for Tap-proof Communication

An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.

A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...

Im Focus: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

13th AKL – International Laser Technology Congress: May 4–6, 2022 in Aachen – Laser Technology Live already this year!

02.04.2020 | Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

Latest News

Capturing 3D microstructures in real time

03.04.2020 | Materials Sciences

First SARS-CoV-2 genomes in Austria openly available

03.04.2020 | Life Sciences

Do urban fish exhibit impaired sleep? Light pollution suppresses melatonin production in European perch

03.04.2020 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>