Crop Biotech Update

Untangling Molecular Mechanisms Connecting Plant Stress and Growth

April 12, 2017

For the first time, researchers from Iowa State University (ISU) have mapped the molecular components that govern how plants under environmental stress interrupt their normal growth pathways by tapping into an important energy recycling function. The research shows that autophagy -- a system used both by plants and animals to recycle energy and molecular components -- plays a key role in slowing plant growth during times of stress.

ISU professor of genetics, development and cell biology Yanhai Yin and colleagues focused their research on the BES1 gene, known to promote plant growth in response to the plant hormone brassinosteroid. In their study, the researchers show that stress sets off a series of reactions that allow autophagy to inhibit plant growth. One of these reactions involves the DSK2 protein that bridges BES1 and the autophagy pathway. Mass spectometry showed that targeting of BES1 to autophagy by DSK2 is modified by the protein BIN2, another key player in the brassinosteroid signaling pathway.

Trevor Nolan, lead author of the study said that the discovery could have implications beyond plant science as autophagy plays an important role in animals and plants as well.

For more information, read the news release at the ISU News Service.