Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Second plant pathway could improve nutrition, biofuel production

Date:
April 3, 2010
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Scientists have defined a hidden second option plants have for making an essential amino acid that could be the first step in boosting plants' nutritional value and improving biofuel production potential.

Purdue University scientists have defined a hidden second option plants have for making an essential amino acid that could be the first step in boosting plants' nutritional value and improving biofuel production potential.

The amino acid phenylalanine is required to build proteins and is a precursor for more than 8,000 other compounds essential to plants, including lignin, which allows plants to stand upright but acts as a barrier in the production of cellulosic ethanol.

It had been believed that plants could use two pathways to create phenylalanine. Natalia Dudareva, a professor of horticulture, and Hiroshi Maeda, a postdoctoral researcher in Dudareva's laboratory, have confirmed that while plants predominantly use one pathway, they have another at their disposal. The existence of this second pathway might one day allow scientists to increase a plant's production of the essential amino acid. Their research was published in the early online version of the journal Plant Cell.

"That would allow us to increase the nutritional value of some food," Maeda said. "But also by increasing these compounds, the plants would be better able to protect themselves from changes in the environment."

Maeda added that reducing phenylalanine could lead to a reduction of lignin in plants, which would improve digestibility of cellulosic materials for ethanol production.

Phenylalanine is one of the few essential amino acids that humans and animals cannot synthesize, so it must come from plants. It is produced when sugars enter a plant's shikimate pathway, which creates a link between the processing of sugars and the generation of aromatic compounds. The next steps had not been known until now, and were thought to involve one of two proposed routes -- the phenylpyruvate or arogenate pathways.

Dudareva and Maeda found a gene responsible for phenylalanine production, and suppression of the gene expression knocked out 80 percent of the phenylalanine content in petunias. The hypothesis was that the gene suppression would act like a clogged pipe, creating an abundance of compounds that would have later become phenylalanine in a normal plant.

But that's not what happened.

"These plants knew that the last step of phenylalanine production was down and slowed the first steps," Dudareva said.

Maeda said the plant created some sort of feedback mechanism that slowed down the entry point of the shikimate pathway.

Dudareva and Maeda wanted to see what would happen if they forced the shikimate pathway to function, so they gave the petunias shikimic acid. The plants were flooded with the upstream compounds as expected, but since they could not use the usual arogenate pathway to convert them to phenylalanine, they used another path that scientists had only theorized existed.

"What this tells us is this other pathway could be active under certain conditions," Dudareva said.

Understanding how the pathways work is a first step in finding ways to increase phenylalanine for boosting nutritional values of foods, or decreasing it, which may help in biofuel production.

Dudareva and Maeda will next try to determine how the plant creates feedback to the shikimate pathway. Disrupting that feedback could lead to an abundant production of phenylalanine in plants. The National Science Foundation funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. The original article was written by Brian Wallheimer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Maeda et al. RNAi Suppression of Arogenate Dehydratase1 Reveals That Phenylalanine Is Synthesized Predominantly via the Arogenate Pathway in Petunia Petals. The Plant Cell Online, 2010; DOI: 10.1105/tpc.109.073247

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Second plant pathway could improve nutrition, biofuel production." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331122654.htm>.
Purdue University. (2010, April 3). Second plant pathway could improve nutrition, biofuel production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331122654.htm
Purdue University. "Second plant pathway could improve nutrition, biofuel production." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331122654.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. 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