A research team from the University of the Basque Country have analysed the substances that are triggered in plants to protect themselves, with the goal of choosing the species that is best suited to the environment during reforestation under adverse environmental conditions.
Droughts, extreme temperatures, contamination, and so on – all are harmful to plants. On occasions, the damage is caused by humans. For example, as a consequence of cutting down trees, plants used to shady conditions may be exposed to an excess of light. However, in most cases it is nature itself that causes the stress. In spring, plants have sufficient average humidity and temperatures, i.e. what scientists deem ‘optimum conditions’.
But in winter they have to withstand considerable cold and in summer, on the other hand, high temperatures and droughts: adverse environmental factors that generate stress situations. Thus, in winter and in summer, the light which under normal conditions would be a source of energy becomes excessive, given that the metabolism of the plants under these conditions is not able to assimilate it. This process is known as photo-oxidative stress.
Some plants are incapable of withstanding this stress – unable to dissipate the excess energy, generating a chain reaction by which they deteriorate and die. Other species, on the other hand, undergo processes of acclimatising themselves to the new situation and trigger chemical compounds that act to protect them. These species are the object of interest of a research team from the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).
The members of this team – called EKOFISKO and led by Dr. Txema Becerril – are studying the plants’ defence mechanisms in order to predict damage before it is produced. They measure the photo-protector substances created by the plants and analyse their behaviour, using them as biosensors of photo-oxidative stress.
Amongst all these plants, they have been studying trees and other forest species, given that they are long-cycle species and it is important that they acclimatize correctly to the environment before reforestation is embarked upon. The autochthonous species of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (CAPV), especially the southern part thereof, being where the two climatic regions - the Atlantic and the Mediterranean – meet, would be the first to suffer the consequences of climate change. The study mainly involves species with ecological, economic or landscape interest, and analyses both the deciduous species and the perennial varieties; particularly the latter as they withstand the cold winter temperatures without shedding their leaves.
On the trail of the box tree
The box is a model species and a good example for analysing the defence mechanisms of plants: it is capable of withstanding quite different environments (both dry and sunny climes as well as damp and shaded conditions), thanks to its resistance and adaptability. When it is under stress, the leaves go red, as other species do in autumn, but its peculiarity is that it is able to convert its chromoplasts (where the red pigments accumulate) into chloroplasts (with green pigments) and once again capture energy when the stress conditions disappear.
In order to measure the biomarkers of photo-oxidative stress the research team also simulated the winter or summer conditions in the greenhouse and in the growing rooms at the Faculty of Science and Technology, i.e. they artificially induced in the plants the conditions which they would have to be subjected. This makes it possible to isolate each one of the stress agents and to study its consequences, leaving aside the rest of the variables found in nature.
According to what the research team at the UPV/EHU have shown, the secret to being the most adaptable species lies in accumulating antioxidants, such as vitamin E and special carotenoids (carotenes and xantophylls); precisely the substances that provide colour to plants. On receiving too much light, the VAZ cycle is triggered and the balance between three xantophylls (corresponding to these 3 initials) is altered so that the excess energy does not harm the plants.
The human body, for example, is not capable of creating these highly important substances itself and it has to ingest vegetables in order to obtain antioxidants (from plants). Besides studying the VAZ cycle, Mr Txema Becerril’s team has contributed to the discovery of a new cycle (the lutein epoxide cycle), present in many forest species such as beech, laurel, holm oak or oak and the team is currently studying what exactly is its protective function.
Alaitz Ochoa de Eribe | alfa
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine