Biotech Updates

Scientists Discover How Plants Grow Away from Salt

November 9, 2022

Seedlings in media without and with salt. Photo Source: Bo Yu

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered that plants can change their root direction and grow away from saline areas. This discovery changes current understanding of how plants change their shape and growth direction and may help alleviate the accelerating global problem of high soil salinity.

Professor Staffan Persson of the University of Copenhagen's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences said that the world needs crops that can better withstand salt. He added that plants can make their roots grow away from saline areas, but it is unclear how this mechanism works. With research colleagues, Professor Persson discovered exactly what happens inside plants at a cellular and molecular level as their roots grow away from salt. The research group discovered that when a plant senses local concentrations of salt, the stress hormone abscisic acid (ABA) is activated, setting into motion a response mechanism.

Professor Persson explains that plants have a stress hormone triggered by salt. This hormone causes a reorganization of the tiny protein-based tubes in the cell, called the cytoskeleton. The reorganization then causes the cellulose fibers surrounding the root cells to make a similar rearrangement, forcing the root to twist in such a way that it grows away from the salt. The researchers mutated a single amino acid in a protein that drives the twisting of the root, reversing the twist so that the plant could not grow away from the salt.

For more details about this research, read the article in the University of Copenhagen News.

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