Biotech Updates

Research Improves Understanding of How Plants Protect Themselves from Adverse Environmental Conditions

November 6, 2013

Research at Iowa State University (ISU) has shed new light on genetic mechanisms that plants use to protect themselves from environmental stresses. Using Arabidopsis, the researchers looked at what happens to plants at the molecular level when faced with environmental stress using a process called unfolded protein response. This acts as an alarm system when the plant senses harsh conditions.

Stephen Howell, ISU professor of genetics, development and cell biology said "Given the concerns over climate change and some of the extreme shifts in weather we've seen in recent years, one of the most valued traits in crops is stress tolerance. It's a very timely issue."

The signaling pathway that allows for the response features several redundancies that made the system difficult to study at first. When one part of the system is shut down, stress signaling takes an alternate path, but blocking each component in the pathway revealed its full importance to plants. ISU scientist Renu Srivastava said the system not only impacts how plants respond to environmental stress, but is also important for reproduction and development.

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