Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists unravel plants' natural defenses

23.11.2007
A team of researchers, led by the University of Sheffield and Queen Mary, University of London, has discovered how plants protect their leaves from damage by sunlight when they are faced with extreme climates. The new findings, which have been published in Nature, could have implications both for adapting plants to the threat of global warming and for helping man better harness solar energy.

Photosynthesis in plants relies upon the efficient collection of sunlight. This process can work even at low levels of sunlight, when plants are in the shade or under cloud cover for example. However, when the sun is very bright or when it is cold or very dry, the level of light energy absorbed by leaves can be greatly in excess of that which can be used in photosynthesis and can destroy the plant. However, plants employ a remarkable process called photoprotection, in which a change takes place in the leaves so that the excess light energy is converted into heat, which is harmlessly dispersed.

Until now, researchers hadn’t known exactly how photoprotection works. By joining forces with their physicist colleagues in France and the Netherlands, the UK team have determined how this process works. They were able to show how a small number of certain key molecules, hidden among the millions of others in the plant leaf, change their shape when the amount of light absorbed is excessive; and they have been able to track the conversion of light energy to heat that occurs in less than a billionth of a second.

Many plant species can successfully inhabit extreme environments where there is little water, strong sunlight, low fertility and extremes of temperature by having highly tuned defence mechanisms, including photoprotection. However, these mechanisms are frequently poorly developed in crop plants since they are adapted for high growth and productivity in an environment manipulated by irrigation, fertilisation, enclosure in greenhouses and artificial shading. These manipulations are not sustainable, they have high energy costs and may not be adaptable to an increasingly unstable climate. Researchers believe that in the future, the production of both food and biofuel from plants needs to rely more on their natural defence mechanisms, including photoprotection.

... more about:
»mechanisms »photoprotection »sunlight

Professor Horton, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, who lead the UK team, said: “These results are important in developing plants with improved photoprotective mechanisms to enable them to better cope with climate change. This may be hugely significant in our fight against global warming. It is a fantastic example of what can be achieved in science when the skills of biologists and physicists are brought together.”

Moreover, there are other global implications of this research. Dr Alexander Ruban of Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, comments: “As we seek to develop new solar energy technology it will be important to not only understand, but to mimic the way biology has learnt to optimise light collection in the face of the continually changing intensity of sunlight.”

Lindsey Bird | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sheffield.ac.uk

Further reports about: mechanisms photoprotection sunlight

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs
18.04.2019 | University of Hawaii at Manoa

nachricht New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection
18.04.2019 | Polytechnique Montréal

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>