Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Petunia points the way to better harvests: Understanding plants' relationships with helpful soil fungi

Date:
March 8, 2012
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
Most plants live in symbiosis with soil fungi and are supplied with water and nutrients as a result. Based on the petunia, plant biologists have now discovered that a special transport protein is required to establish this symbiotic relationship. The targeted control of this protein could lead to greater harvests.

Petunias.
Credit: Valerii Kotulskyi / Fotolia

Most plants live in symbiosis with soil fungi and are supplied with water and nutrients as a result. Based on the petunia, plant biologists at the University of Zurich have now discovered that a special transport protein is required to establish this symbiotic relationship. The targeted control of this protein could lead to greater harvests.

About 80 percent of all terrestrial plants enter into a symbiotic relationship with fungi living in the soil. The fungi provide the plant with water, important nutrients like phosphate and nitrate, and certain trace elements like zinc; the plant, on the other hand, supplies the fungus with carbohydrates. It is assumed that plants were only able to migrate onto land 400 million years ago thanks to this symbiosis.

The formation of this symbiosis is a strictly regulated process that the plant activates in low nutrient levels. The roots release the hormone strigolactone, which is detected by the fungi. The fungal hyphae grow towards the roots, penetrate the epidermis and isolated passage cells, and enter the root cortex. There, the fungal hyphae form tiny branch-like networks, which resemble little trees (arbusculum) and gave the symbiotic relationship its name: vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis.

Until about five years ago, the hormone strigolactone was known to induce and entice parasitic plant seeds in the soil to germinate. At that stage, no-one understood why plants produced this substance, which is harmful to them. Only when the new role of strigolactone in mycorrhiza formation was discovered did it become clear that the attraction of the parasites was a harmful side effect of the symbiosis.

How do strigolactones get into the soil?

Exactly how strigolactones are released into the soil from the roots and how the fungi find the specialized entry points in the roots was not known until now. The research group headed by Professor Enrico Martinoia from the University of Zurich has now found the answers to these questions in collaboration with Professor Harro Bouwmeester's team from Wageningen in the Netherlands. "Based on the model plant the petunia, we were able to demonstrate that the protein PhPDR1 transports strigolactones," explains Professor Martinoia. The protein belongs to the ABC-transporter family found in simple organisms like bacteria, but also in humans.

The researchers observed that PhPDR1 is expressed more highly in a low nutrient content in order to attract more symbiotic fungi, which then supply more nutrients. But there are also plants like the model plant Arabidopsis (mouse-ear cress) that do not form any mycorrhiza. If the researchers added PhPDR1, however, the Arabidopsis roots transported strigolactones again.

Improvements in yield and weed control

"Our results will help to improve the mycorrhization of plants in soils where mycorrhization is delayed," Professor Martinoia is convinced. "Mycorrhization can thus be triggered where it is inhibited due to dryness or flooding of the soils." This would enable the plants to be nourished more effectively and achieve a greater harvest. Moreover, thanks to the discovery of the strigolactone transporter the secretion of strigolactone into the soil can be halted, which prevents parasitic plants that use up the host plants' resources from being attracted. "This is especially important for regions in Africa, where the parasitic weed Striga and other parasitic plants regularly destroy over 60 percent of harvests," says Martinoia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tobias Kretzschmar, Wouter Kohlen, Joelle Sasse, Lorenzo Borghi, Markus Schlegel, Julien B. Bachelier, Didier Reinhardt, Ralph Bours, Harro J. Bouwmeester, Enrico Martinoia. A petunia ABC protein controls strigolactone-dependent symbiotic signalling and branching. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature10873

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Petunia points the way to better harvests: Understanding plants' relationships with helpful soil fungi." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120308062551.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2012, March 8). Petunia points the way to better harvests: Understanding plants' relationships with helpful soil fungi. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120308062551.htm
University of Zurich. "Petunia points the way to better harvests: Understanding plants' relationships with helpful soil fungi." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120308062551.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 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:
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