Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Surviving drought: Discovery may help protect crops from stressors

Date:
August 30, 2012
Source:
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Summary:
New findings of a key genetic mechanism in plant hormone signaling may help save crops from stress and help address human hunger.

This image of plant cells shows EIN2 (red), a protein that allows plants to control their response to ethylene gas, concentrated in the plant's nucleus (ringed in blue). Salk scientists discovered how EIN2 allows plants to respond to ethylene, which is crucial in fruit ripening and their response to stress.
Credit: Image: Courtesy of Hong Qiao, Salk Insitute for Biological Studies

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered a key genetic switch by which plants control their response to ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone best known for its ability to ripen fruit, but which, under stress conditions, can cause wilted leaves, premature aging and spoilage from over-ripening. The findings, published August 30 in Science magazine, may hold the key to manipulating plants' ethylene on/off switch, allowing them to balance between drought resistance and growth and, therefore, decrease crop losses from drought conditions.

"In different stress conditions -- flooding, drought, chilling, wounding or pathogen attack -- ethylene tells plants to make adjustments to these adverse changes," says senior study author Joseph Ecker, a professor in Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator. "Our study discovered a key step in how plants 'smell' ethylene gas, which may lead to better ways to control these processes in crop plants."

Plants sense -- or smell -- ethylene, which triggers a cascade of events in their cells. Ethylene sensors in the cells send a signal to the nucleus, the cells' central DNA-containing compartment, which initiates genetic programs so the plant can make changes according to the conditions it faces. Scientists, including Ecker and his team, have identified the functions of a number of key regulators in the ethylene signaling pathway, including the protein EIN2 (ethylene insensitive 2).

The EIN2 protein is located in the endoplasmic reticulum, the part of the cell that facilitates the transport of proteins within the cell, and plays an essential role in ethylene signaling. The protein's function, however, remains enigmatic. Through a variety of sophisticated tests, Ecker's team uncovered a mechanism by which EIN2 protein processing in the endoplasmic reticulum and movement of signaling molecules into the nucleus are required to activate the ethylene response.

Understanding the mechanism may lead to new methods to help plants thrive in tough conditions. Stress conditions trigger various negative responses in plants, including wilted and rolled leaves, premature leaf senescence (aging), reduced photosynthetic efficiency, loss of chlorophyll, poor pollination, and flower, fruit and seed loss.

The most severe drought in 25 years is impacting crops across the United States, with the potential to wipe out farmers' incomes and raise food prices. Plant researchers are studying stress conditions in order to improve crop production, which has become more urgent as farmers around the world face climate issues such as drought and extreme temperatures. Curbing crops' susceptibility to certain stressors could allow for higher yields during droughts and possibly allow drier climates to support profitable crops and feed the world's growing population.

"Growers can opt to spray their plants with an ethylene inhibitor," says Hong Qiao, a postdoctoral researcher in Ecker's laboratory and first author of the paper. "This blocks the plant's ethylene receptors from smelling ethylene, which has an effect on growth. Without the ethylene response pathway, a tomato would never ripen. Too much ethylene, and the tomato over-ripens. Therefore, basic knowledge of the precise mechanism by which plants control the response to ethylene gas will lead to better ways to control these processes in crop plants."

Other researches on the study were Shao-shan Carol Huang, Robert J. Schmitz and Mark A. Urich, from the Salk Institute; and Zhouxin Shen and Steven P. Briggs of the University of California, San Diego.

The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hong Qiao, Zhouxin Shen, Shao-shan Carol Huang, Robert J. Schmitz, Mark A. Urich, Steven P. Briggs, and Joseph R. Ecker. Processing and Subcellular Trafficking of ER-Tethered EIN2 Control Response to Ethylene Gas. Science, 30 August 2012 DOI: 10.1126/science.1225974

Cite This Page:

Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "Surviving drought: Discovery may help protect crops from stressors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120830173158.htm>.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies. (2012, August 30). Surviving drought: Discovery may help protect crops from stressors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120830173158.htm
Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "Surviving drought: Discovery may help protect crops from stressors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120830173158.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Lamb are teaching the world about animal conservation and friendship. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has the adorable video! Video provided by Buzz60
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