Oct 19, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

Plants' Extraordinary Ability To Survive Amazed Scientists: Discovery Leads Genetic Target For Growing Hardier Plants

Apr 29, 2017 06:09 AM EDT

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A research conducted by a Penn-led team identified a certain protein involved in how plants develop their root hair cells that take up water and nutrients. Scientists have observed plant's root hair cells along with a folded RNA transcripts that interact with RNA binding proteins through a confocal image produced by Ruthsabel O'Lexy of the University of Pennsylvania.

According to MicroscopyU, a confocal image is a type of microscopy that offers many advantages over conventional optical microscopy. It includes a shallow depth of field, elimination of the "out-of-focus" glare, and the ability to collect serial optical sections from thick specimens including plant tissues.

Imaging of either fixed or living cells and tissues that are labeled with one or more fluorescent probes are usually the main function of confocal microscopy in biomedical sciences. These fluorescent specimen, when being captured by the conventional widefield optical microscope, the secondary fluorescence that appears to be away from the region of interest often interferes with the resolution of those features that are in focus.

On the other hand, the function of a plant's roots goes well beyond simply serving as a good anchor in the ground. The roots will act as the plant's mouth by absorbing, storing and routing water and nutrients needed for their survival. Scientists have put a lot of time and energy to produce plants that are more effective at these tasks for them to develop into hardier forms that can survive drought or low-nutrient conditions.

Based on the article published by Phys.org, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are doing their best to make this experiment successful. The discovery of two proteins that regulates the cell in plant roots that forms a hair cell in which increases the surface area for the absorption and a non-hair cell gives scientists a new idea about plants survivability. Plants that are overexpressed to one of these regulators survived despite being deprived of a key nutrient, phosphorus.

"Normally plants respond to phosphorus deprivation by becoming smaller, which means less biomass, less food production, and less seed production," Brian Gregory, an associate professor in the Department of Biology in Penn's School of Arts & Sciences and senior author on the paper, said. Professor Gregory also explains that by overexpressing one of the proteins they identify GRP8 which made them produce plants that don't show dwarfing nearly as normal plants under phosphorus starvation.

While phosphate is necessary for plants, it also often ends up in waterways where it can harm aquatic ecosystems. Growing crop plants, however, can lessen the issue. Currently, the authors are testing to see whether these findings are also happening to other plant species, specifically in crop plants.

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