Biotech Updates

Scientists Use Three Techniques and Found Three Species have Different Ways to Fight Drought

December 21, 2022

A team of scientists has combined three advanced research techniques that are rarely used together and found how different types of plants protect themselves from harsh conditions. The three techniques reveal a surprising amount of information about the chemical processes inside plants.

Scientists working under the Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science (FICUS) program examined the effects of drought on chemical processes inside the roots of three tropical rainforest species. The team included researchers from the University of Arizona, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the University of Freiburg. To understand the chemical functions of plants, including how they use carbon, the team combined cutting-edge metabolomic and imaging technologies at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a Department of Energy user facility. They used powerful nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify the type and structure of molecules in the plant roots. They then created detailed images of tissues using mass spectrometry (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry) and took nanoscale measurements of elements and isotopes (nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry).

These techniques produced insights into different defense mechanisms that plants use to survive drought. The team found that one species added woody lignin to thicken its roots, the second secreted antioxidants, and fatty acids as a biochemical defense, and the third appeared less affected by drought conditions, but the soil around it had a higher level of carbon. This indicates that the plant and the microbes in the soil were working together to protect the plant. This study showed how combined techniques could help identify different drought-tolerance strategies and ways to keep plants thriving.

For more details, read the article on the U.S. Department of Energy website.

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