Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants give up some deep secrets of drought resistance

24.08.2010
In a study that promises to fill in the fine details of the plant world's blueprint for surviving drought, a team of Wisconsin researchers has identified in living plants the set of proteins that help them withstand water stress.

The new study, published today (Aug. 23) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identifies the protein targets in cells of a key hormone that controls how plants respond to environmental stresses such as drought, excessive radiation and cold.

The work, which builds on decades of research with a key plant hormone known as abscisic acid, could help underpin the development of new crop plant strains capable of thriving in hotter, dryer climates. The work is considered important in light of the pressing need to expand and intensify agricultural production on marginal lands worldwide, and especially so in the context of global climate change.

"If we can figure out how this works with crops and make them able to resist drought, the benefits would be enormous," notes Michael Sussman, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of biochemistry and the senior author of the new study. "These are the first baby steps to understand the effects of dehydration in plants and it may give us the opportunity to develop crops that can withstand this kind of stress in the field."

Working in the model laboratory plant Arabidopsis, the Wisconsin team explored the influence of abscisic acid, a long-studied hormone that, in addition to influencing how plants respond to environmental stress, controls the naturally occurring processes of seed dormancy and germination.

The hormone has been known to science for 50 years, and was believed to influence certain proteins in cells in a complicated cascade of events that aided the ability of a plant to survive such stresses as dehydration, excessive radiation and cold temperatures. But any plant cell, Sussman explains, contains at least 30,000 different proteins, and the identity of the few proteins activated by the hormone was a deep mystery.

"Since they cannot walk or run, plants have developed an interesting and complicated system for sensing and responding very quickly to dehydration and other stresses," says Sussman, noting that, on average, a plant is composed of 95 percent water. "Most plants have what's called a permanent wilting point, where if water content goes below 90 percent or so, they don't just dehydrate and go dormant, they dehydrate and die."

Figuring out how to trigger a dormant state, such as exists naturally in seeds, which are 10 percent water and can in some cases remain viable for hundreds of years, could be key to creating plants that survive drought in the field, Sussman explains.

The team, which includes postdoctoral fellow Kelli G. Kline and scientist Gregory Barrett-Wilt, utilized a new stable isotope technology and mass spectrometry to comb 5,000 candidate proteins in the cells of living plants and found 50 that were influenced by the abscisic acid hormone. The survey is the first of its kind in a living plant and many of the proteins identified were previously not known to be influenced at all by abscisic acid.

Surprisingly, the hormone was found to regulate some of the plant proteins in a completely different way than was known before, by inhibiting their ability to have a phosphate moiety removed from an amino acid, by a type of enzyme called a protein phosphatase. Protein phosphatases are the opposite side of the coin that catalytic enzymes known as protein kinases occupy. In many important biological processes, such as cancer, it is the protein kinases that are the dominant actors.

The finding that phosphatases play a more critical role in a hormonally regulated system is a new idea in biology discovered through work with plants. Sussman's group's findings indicate that the dynamic interplay between the hormone and the proteins it affects is a more complicated process than previously suspected. "The story is far from complete," says the Wisconsin biochemist. "There is something very interesting, and complicated, going on."

The new study was funded through the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Terry Devitt, 608-262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

Michael Sussman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens
14.08.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments
14.08.2018 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

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...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

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....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

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...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Building up' stretchable electronics to be as multipurpose as your smartphone

14.08.2018 | Information Technology

During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>