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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Plant 'Brain' Controlling Seed Development

June 7, 2017

A study conducted by scientists at the University of Birmingham reveals that a group of cells function as a ‘brain' for plant embryos capable of assessing environmental conditions and dictates when seeds will germinate. A plant's decision to germinate is a key process that it makes during its life. Too soon, and the plant may be damaged by harsh winter conditions; too late, and it may be outcompeted by other, more precocious plants.

The scientists show that the ‘decision-making center' in the plant Arabidopsis contains two types of cell: one promotes seed dormancy, the other promotes germination. These two groups of cells communicate with each other by moving hormones, an analogous mechanism that the human brain employs to decide whether or not to move.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), used mathematical modelling to show that communication between the separated elements controls the plant's sensitivity to its environment. They used a mutant plant where cells were more chemically linked, to show that germination time depends on these intra-region signals. The model also predicted that more seeds would germinate when exposed to varying environments, such as fluctuating temperatures, than constant environments, such as constant temperatures.

For more details, read the article at University of Birmingham News.