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Crop Biotech Update

Utrecht Biologists Discover Mechanism for Plant Growth Under High Temperatures

November 27, 2019
A thermal image of a plant that is able to keep its leaves cooler than its surroundings through perspiration and airflow. Stretching under high temperature leads to further cooling. Photo Source: Utrecht University

Biologists from Utrecht University have discovered a new molecular mechanism that allows plants to optimize their growth under suboptimal high temperature conditions. This study offers promising leads for the development of climate warming-tolerant crops, which maintain a high yield under stressful high ambient temperatures.

Crops suffer high temperatures and each degree Celsius temperature increase can lead to up to 10 percent crop loss. However, many plant species can adjust the shape of their stems and leaves to be resilient to high temperatures. This process is called thermomorphogenesis and leads to an 'open body plan', which allows efficient evaporation, reduction of direct heat radiation from the sun, and enables dissipation of the heat by improved air circulation around leaves.

The researchers explain that the enzyme Histone Deacetylase 9 (HDA9) plays a key role in thermomorphogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. At increasing temperatures, the abundance of the enzyme rises, resulting in the removal of epigenetic modifications of DNA-bound Histone proteins that have an inhibiting effect on the synthesis of the well-known plant growth hormone auxin. As a result, auxin levels increase and the plant adjusts its stature. This mechanism shows that HDA9 has an indirect positive effect on transcription, while Histone Deacetylases are generally accepted as suppressors of this process.

For more details, read the news article in Utrecht University website.

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