Crop Biotech Update

Plants Reveal Metabolism and Circadian Functions With the Help of Drugs

August 3, 2022

Using an approach called chemical biology, Australian scientists are using drugs to learn how a plant's biological system functions. Particularly, their objective is to understand how metabolism affects the plant's circadian rhythm which is important to its optimization of sunlight used for photosynthesis and managing energy reserves at night.

Circadian clocks work by turning on and off at least one-third of animal genes and proteins every day. The genes that are turned on at a specific time of the day dictate how the body responds to daily activities. Like animals, plants have circadian clocks that affect metabolism and growth. Their circadian clock influences how well the plant responds to stresses like drought, heat, and pathogens.

The scientists from the University of Melbourne investigated how the circadian clock of crops can be used to improve yields. They explored using different drugs and determined that pentamidine isethionate, a drug used to treat sleeping sickness and severe pneumonia, impaired plant growth and slowed down the plant's circadian clock. They also found that other drugs work differently in plant cells.

By learning more about how plant metabolism is related to the circadian rhythm, the scientists determined that plant cells work similarly to animal cells, which is why the drugs have an effect on plants. Their findings can potentially find new uses for drugs which include the development of new herbicides, boosting crop growth by triggering metabolism at the right time of the day or enhancing circadian rhythms to maximize crop performance.

For more information, read the article published by the University of Melbourne and the study published by New Phytologist.

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