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Crop Biotech Update

JIC Scientists Discover Missing Link in Plant Nitrogen Fixation

June 1, 2016

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) have discovered an important component in the process of nitrogen fixation in plants. The scientists have identified the protein that facilitates the movement of calcium in plant cells. This movement of calcium signals to the plant that nitrogen-fixing bacteria are close-by and triggers the development of nodules on its roots to house these bacteria.

The calcium movement takes place in the central nucleus of plant cells. The JIC research team led by Dr. Myriam Charpentier and Professor Giles Oldroyd discovered a set of critically important proteins, called cyclic nucleotide gated channel 15s (CNGC15s), which are essential for the movement of calcium into the nucleus. They found that the CNGC15s facilitate the calcium movement into the nucleus, allowing the plant to transfer the information that the nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria are nearby. This enables the plant to initiate the cellular and developmental processes that facilitate bacterial accommodation, allowing establishment of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, and thus, nitrogen fixation. Although this calcium movement is limited to the nuclei of plant cells, it has a large impact on how the whole plant will grow.

More details about this research available at the JIC website.