Crop Biotech Update

Research on Mosses Provides Better Understanding of Plant Cell Biology

February 8, 2017

A group of researchers at Wageningen University & Research has conducted a study to unravel plant biological processes using the moss Physcomitrella patens. In their publication in Current Biology, Jeroen de Keijzer describes a process that is crucial to the division of plant cells.

When a plant cell divides, a new segment of cell wall must be constructed to form two new cells. Elongated tubules from protein building blocks, the microtubules, initially ensure that duplicated genetic material is divided neatly over two cell halves to form two identical cell nuclei. The microtubules remain present to coordinate the construction of a new cell wall in between the nuclei.

In this research into cell wall formation, de Keijzer switched off two genes that make the overlap between the microtubules smaller. With two extra genome editing steps, de Keijzer introduced the DNA for two different fluorescent proteins into the moss plants: one to make the overlap of the microtubules visible, the other to do the same for the membrane structures used in cell wall construction. In the P. patens plants where the overlap of the microtubules did not become smaller during cell division, the strip of new membrane used as the basis for the new cell wall was wider.

For more details, read the news release from Wageningen University & Research.