Photo credit: Phys Org
(L to R) Heriberto Cerutti, Zhen Wang, Jean-Jack Riethoven and Chi Zhang. Wang is holding a tray of the plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana) studied by the researchers. Credit: Craig Chandler
Study reveals mechanisms of drought response in plants
by Scott Schrage
UNL biologists have published a new study that lays bare several roots of how plants respond to drought.
The researchers have shown that mutations in two genes of the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana can stifle its development and disrupt the defense mechanisms that protect it against drought-like conditions.
As reported June 22 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the UNL team bred a “double mutant” variant of Arabidopsis to explore the collective roles of two genes whose mutations effectively deactivated them.
The authors discovered that the mutations substantially stunted the growth and compromised the functioning of plant organs. The double mutant also showed much greater susceptibility to drought, wilting faster and dying more often thanplants with either one or no defective genes.
“In the long term, we’d like to understand whether we can (produce) the opposite effects – plants that might be more tolerant to challenging environmental conditions,” said lead author Heriberto Cerutti, professor of biological sciences. “I think this basic research is a necessary step toward that.”
Cerutti’s team traced the detrimental changes in the double mutant to the absence of interactions that typically occur in cellular proteins called histones, which act as space-saving spools that the spiral ladder of DNA coils around.
Biologists believe that histones help dictate when the genetic instructions encoded in DNA get transcribed and expressed in an organism. Recent research has also suggested that histone modifications – including phosphorylation, the addition of a phosphate molecule – may help optimize plant responses to environmental cues.
Read the full article: Phys Org