Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Some plants duplicate their DNA to overcome adversity

Date:
August 3, 2011
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Whatever does not kill a plant may actually make it stronger. After being partially eaten by grazing animals, for example, some plants grow bigger and faster and reproduce more successfully than they otherwise would. In a new study, researchers report that one secret to these plants' post-traumatic triumph lies in their ability to duplicate their chromosomes -- again and again -- without undergoing cell division.

Some cultivars of Arabidopsis thaliana repeatedly duplicate their chromosomes in response to grazing.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

Whatever does not kill a plant may actually make it stronger. After being partially eaten by grazing animals, for example, some plants grow bigger and faster and reproduce more successfully than they otherwise would. In a new study, researchers report that one secret to these plants' post-traumatic triumph lies in their ability to duplicate their chromosomes -- again and again -- without undergoing cell division.

Related Articles


While this process, called "endoreduplication," is not new to science, no previous study had looked at it in relation to the seemingly miraculous burst of growth and reproductive fitness that occurs in many plants after they have been grazed, said University of Illinois animal biology professor Ken Paige, who conducted the study with doctoral student Daniel Scholes.

"If you talk to a molecular biologist, they might know what endoreduplication is, but they haven't looked at it from the perspective of whole plant reproductive success," Scholes said. "We tried to link the two and found out there is a link there."

The study appears in the journal Ecology.

The researchers looked at Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant in the mustard family that repeatedly duplicates its chromosomes in some cell types. The plant begins with only 10 chromosomes -- five from each parent -- but after repeated duplications, some cells contain up to 320 chromosomes.

The researchers compared the DNA content of two cultivars of A. thaliana that respond very differently to being grazed. Of the 160 specimens of each cultivar studied, half were artificially grazed (by clipping their central stems) and half were not. One of the cultivars, Columbia, rebounded dramatically after clipping, quickly regrowing stems and leaves and producing more seeds than the unclipped plants. In the other cultivar, Landsberg erecta, growth remained steady after clipping and the level of seed production declined.

A look at the number of chromosomes in the tissues of each plant type before and after clipping revealed that Columbia was able to rebound in part by speeding up endoreduplication in some tissues after clipping. Its sister cultivar, Landsberg erecta, however, did not.

"The overall DNA content goes up in one of the cultivars after clipping, but it doesn't change in the other," Paige said. "And we think it's that added boost that increases its reproductive success."

The added DNA content could allow the plants to increase production of proteins that are needed for growth and reproduction, Scholes said. More DNA also means larger cells.

"Because you have more DNA in the nucleus, you must have a greater nuclear volume, which causes your entire cell to get bigger," Scholes said. Increases in the size of individual cells can ultimately lead to an increase in the size of the whole plant.

"We tend to think that what you inherit is what you're stuck with," Scholes said. "But we're finding that plants are increasing what they have, and for the first time we're beginning to understand how they do that, and why."

In earlier studies conducted over 30 years, Paige found that -- even in natural settings -- plants can evolve the ability to bounce back after grazing.

"We've tracked the plants through generations, so we know that the ones that get eaten actually have up to a three-fold reproductive advantage over the ones that are never eaten," he said. "Now we are beginning to understand the molecular mechanisms that make this possible."

The National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois Research Board funded this study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel R. Scholes, Ken N. Paige. Chromosomal plasticity: mitigating the impacts of herbivory. Ecology, 2011; 92 (8): 1691 DOI: 10.1890/10-2269.1

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Some plants duplicate their DNA to overcome adversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110801094715.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2011, August 3). Some plants duplicate their DNA to overcome adversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110801094715.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Some plants duplicate their DNA to overcome adversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110801094715.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Surfer Accidentally Stands on Shark, Gets Bitten

Surfer Accidentally Stands on Shark, Gets Bitten

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A 20-year-old competition surfer said on Thursday he accidentally stepped on a shark's head before it bit him off the Australian east coast. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Dallas Zoo Welcomes Baby Male Giraffe

Raw: Dallas Zoo Welcomes Baby Male Giraffe

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The Dallas Zoo has a new giraffe with the birth of a healthy male calf. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

AFP (Oct. 29, 2014) At the foot of the rugged Carpathian mountains near the Polish-Ukrainian border, ranchers and scientists are trying to protect the Carpathian pony, known as the Hucul in Polish. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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