Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery of nutrient 'mining machine' in plants

Date:
February 21, 2010
Source:
John Innes Centre
Summary:
Scientists have discovered which genes control the specialized nutrient mining machine that develops on the surface of plant roots. The discovery could help breeders develop crops that can grow on poor soils with low iron and phosphate.

Rice hairs on root.
Credit: Image courtesy of John Innes Centre

Scientists from the John Innes Centre and the University of Oxford have discovered which genes control the specialized nutrient mining machine that develops on the surface of plant roots.

Root hairs develop on roots and burrow into the soil releasing acids and other scouring chemicals that crack open rocky minerals releasing valuable nutrients such as iron and phosphate that are necessary for plant growth.

It has long been known that when crops such as barley and wheat are grown on soils containing small amounts of phosphate, those plants with long hairs give higher yields than those with short hairs.

Similarly long-haired beans grown on nutrient poor tropical soils of Central America do much better than short haired varieties.

The mechanism that controls the growth of these nutrient excavating cells has eluded scientists until now. A group of UK-based scientists shed light on the mystery in a paper just published in Nature Genetics.

They discovered that a master regulatory gene called RSL4 acts like a switch; hair cells grow when the gene is turned on and growth stops when it is off.

When plants grow in conditions where there is insufficient phosphate they develop very long root hairs. This increases the amount of soil from which they can scavenge phosphate.

"When we discovered that RSL4 was a master regulator of hair growth we thought that perhaps the increased growth of root hairs in low phosphate soils might result from turning this gene on," says Professor Liam Dolan, leader of the JIC team that discovered RSL4.

Dolan and co-workers were right. Growing plants in phosphate-poor soils turned the gene on resulting in the growth of very long root hairs. This gene is therefore not only a key growth regulator but also a critical cog in the mechanism plants use to cope with a lack of nutrients.

Given the ability of RSL4 increase root hair growth this discovery has the potential to help breeders develop crops that can grow on poor soils.

Most soils in Australia, extensive regions of sub-Saharan Africa and 30 per cent of China are not productive because plants cannot extract sufficient phosphate and iron form these soils.

"Our hope is that in the future someone will be able to use this gene to develop cultivars which enhance yields on poor soils," says Professor Dolan. "This could have obvious benefits for developing world agriculture. Also as fertilizers become increasingly expensive we will need crops that are more efficient in nutrient uptake. This could have the added benefit of decreasing the amount of polluting phosphate that runs off into rivers and lakes."

"What excites me most about this research is that we set out to answer a fundamental question in biology -- how organisms control the size of their cells. In the end we discovered something that could have an important impact on world agriculture."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by John Innes Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yi et al. A basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor controls cell growth and size in root hairs. Nature Genetics, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/ng.529

Cite This Page:

John Innes Centre. "Discovery of nutrient 'mining machine' in plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100217093938.htm>.
John Innes Centre. (2010, February 21). Discovery of nutrient 'mining machine' in plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100217093938.htm
John Innes Centre. "Discovery of nutrient 'mining machine' in plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100217093938.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
USDA Cracks Down On Imports From Foreign Puppy Mills

USDA Cracks Down On Imports From Foreign Puppy Mills

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) New USDA measures to regulate dog imports aim to crack down on buying dogs from overseas puppy mills. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bone Marrow Drug Regrows Hair In Some Alopecia Patients

Bone Marrow Drug Regrows Hair In Some Alopecia Patients

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) Researchers performed an experiment using an FDA-approved drug known as ruxolitinib. They found it to be successful in the majority of patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins