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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Discover Hormone Helps Plants Build Ventilation System in Leaves

September 12, 2018

As the planet continues to warm, plants face a dilemma. Stomata, the same tiny opening in their leaves they have to open to exchange gases also release water. They can close the holes to stay hydrated in hotter, drier conditions, but may miss out on critical carbon dioxide in doing so.

A research team at the Bergmann Lab at Stanford University figured out how plants regulate the number of stomata that each leaf develops. Using Arabidopsis, the team looked at cytokinin, an important plant hormone that was long thought to influence stomatal development and coordinate it with other processes happening throughout the plant.

Anne Vatén, lead author of the paper published in Developmental Cell, analyzed the entire genome of Arabidopsis thaliana and confirmed that genes associated with cytokinin were indeed highly active in cells that were about to become stomata. The research team found that by dialing up or down the levels of this hormone in specific cells in hundreds of laboratory plants, the researchers found they could subtly alter the number of stomata the plant makes. They also discovered that cytokinin activates the gene SPEECHLESS that puts cells on the path toward becoming stomata.

For more details, read the Stanford news article.