Crop Biotech Update

Plant Roots See Light in the Dark

November 9, 2016

For more than three decades, scientists have speculated whether roots are able to perceive light. A team of researchers from Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (ICE) in Jena, Germany, and Seoul National University, South Korea, showed, for the first time, that plant roots react directly to light which is transmitted from the shoot to the underground parts.

The team of molecular biologists and optical physicists developed a highly sensitive optical detector to compare plants with "blind" and "sighted" roots. They used Arabidopsis plants genetically modified in a way that the photoreceptor was only silenced in their roots, but not in their shoots. The scientists grew these modified plants along with control plants with their roots in the dark soil and their shoots exposed to light. The optical detector system measured light which was transmitted in the stem down to the roots.

Ian Baldwin, study leader at Max Planck ICE said, "These results are crucial for further research projects. Our work proves that roots are able to perceive light, even though they are usually found belowground. Photoreception in the roots triggers a signaling chain which influences plant growth, especially the root architecture."

For more details, read the news release at the Max Planck ICE website.