Biotech Updates

New Study Provides Insights for Further Understanding of Plant's Metabolic Control

July 10, 2013

Scientists from the John Innes Center in the United Kingdom and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Germany have described how plants might use molecular mathematics to regulate the rate at which they consume starch reserves to provide energy throughout the night, when energy from the sun is not available. The researchers suggested that a more sophisticated molecular calculation was at work. The team hypothesized the existence of two molecules: one, S, that tells the plant how much starch remains, and another, T, that informs it about the time left until dawn.

The researchers built mathematical models to show that, in principle, the interactions of such molecules could indeed drive the rate of starch breakdown such that it reflected a continuous computation of the division of the amount of remaining starch by the amount of time until dawn. The team then trawled the literature looking for Arabidopsis mutants with known handicaps at different steps along the starch-degradation pathway. These showed that the models were compatible with the behavior of these mutants, which result in a higher than usual amount of starch remaining at the end of the night.

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