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Crop Biotech Update

Study Finds Plants Sacrifice 'Daughters' to Survive the Cold

June 28, 2017

A team of biologists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that some plants selectively kill part of their roots to survive under cold weather conditions.

The team experimented on Arabidopsis roots to look at the effect of chilling temperature on root development and growth. They found that a temperature of four degree Celsius leads to DNA damage in the root stem cells of Arabidopsis, as well as their early descendants. However, only the columella stem cell daughters die preferentially, and the death of these daughter cells allows maintenance of a functional stem cell niche. Inhibition of the DNA damage response in these daughter cells prevents their death, but increases the probability that the other stem cells in the root stem cell niche will die due to the cold, leading to the plant's death.

Dr. Hong Jing Han, first author of the study, explains, "The sacrificial mechanism improves the root's ability to withstand other low temperature-related stresses. When optimal temperatures are restored, the plant stem cells can divide at a faster rate, which will in turn enhance recovery and survival of the plant."

For more details, read the NUS News.