The Molecular Underpinnings of Cell Separation in Plants

The shedding of plant organs such as leaves and flowers, known to plant biologists as abscission, and dehiscence or the spontaneous opening of a plant structure to release its content, are the culmination of a series of well-orchestrated molecular events involving cell separation. Cell separation is an important phenomenon. In addition to dehiscence and abscission, it enables the vascular tissue to differentiate, leaves to form, pollens to shed from the anther and radicle to emerge from the germinating seed. Scientists at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have now identified the molecular underpinnings of cell separation.

Using the plant model Arabidopsis thaliana, the researchers found cell separation to be a complex process, involving several different enzymes, particularly polygalacturonases, and phytohormones. The scientists identified one of the main enzymes involved in the process, QRT2. The research also highlighted the effects various plant hormones have on QRT2 and the other enzymes involved in cell separation.

The study has important implications for agriculture and horticulture. For instance, reducing the activity of genes that are involved in cell separation in legumes and brassicas may lead to seed pods that are less prone to shattering, reducing seed losses prior to harvest.

For more information, visit The paper published by The Plant Cell is available to subscribers at


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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