Biotech Updates

Research Sheds Light on How Plants Breathe

September 27, 2017

In research published in Plant Journal, a team led by Professor Richard Morris from the John Innes Centre, Norwich, Professor Silke Robatzek of The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, and collaborators from the University of Madrid, developed the first ever full 3D model of a guard cell. Guard cells control the opening of stomata, the tiny pores used by plants for gas exchange, water regulation, and pathogen defense.

The research reveals the importance of three distinct characteristics of guard cells that allow them to function effectively. The first is turgor, or the level of water pressure inside the cell. Second is the elasticity of the cell wall, and third is the kidney-shaped geometry that converts pressure into shape changes.

Additional research found an unexpected stiffening in the guard cell end regions, or poles. The stiffening reflects a mechanical pinning down of the guard cell ends, which prevents stomata increasing in length as they open. This leads to an increased speed of pore opening and larger pores, which gives ‘better' stomata. This was observed in Arabidopsis, tomato, and maize, which suggests that it is widespread across plant species.

More details are available at John Innes Centre News and Events.