Plant scientists around the world are working on a number of different strategies to sustainably increase crop yields. Increasing the efficiency of how plants transport sugars, proteins and other organic nutrients between different parts of the plant is one of the approaches that could contribute to this next Green Revolution.
Having an understanding of factors that affect local and long distance transport within a plant could enable plant biotechnologists to breed more productive crops in the future. Ultimately, it might be possible to direct transport of organic nutrients to specific parts of the plant that are harvested (seeds, fruits and storage tubers).
Professor - Yrjö - Helariutta - Research - Team
Professor Yrjö Helariutta's research team at the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) and Dr Emmanuelle Bayer's team at the University of Bordeaux/CNRS have brought this goal a step closer by discovering Phloem Unloading Modulator (PLM), a novel gene that affects nutrient trafficking by altering the channels connecting neighbouring plant cells called plasmodesmata. These nanoscale membrane-lined channels traverse the cell wall barrier to link plant cells together and enable the transfer of essential substances (see notes).
The study, published today in Nature Plants, shows that Arabidopsis thaliana mutant plants missing the PLM gene were found to release more substances from the phloem (a specialised tissue for long distance transport) at the tips of their roots. Using a fluorescent protein as a proxy for macromolecules, the scientists could see that the PLM gene was having a clear controlling effect on the amount of phloem unloading. To find out how the gene was doing this, they looked at what was happening at different cell interfaces in the roots of seedling plants.
Author - Dr - Dawei - Yan - Cambridge
Lead author, Dr Dawei Yan, from Cambridge's Sainsbury Laboratory, explains: "We found that mutating PLM relieves a trafficking bottleneck, that was previously reducing the outward movement of nutrients from the vascular system to the...
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