Biotech Updates

Manipulating Auxin: Scientists Grow Roots on Plant Shoots

November 7, 2008

Scientists from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Ghent University in Belgium have discovered a way to grow roots at places where leaves will normally grow. The discovery, the scientists say, can be highly beneficial for improving crop yields and efficiency in the agricultural sector.

The researchers manipulated a molecular switch responsible for the transport of the phytohormone auxin. Auxin acts as a versatile trigger in many aspects of plant development. It promotes the formation of roots from stem cells and coordinates the growth of leaves and fruits. The hormone is produced in young leaves and is then transported from one cell to the next, towards the root formation. “Turning on” the molecular switch results to reduced transport of auxin to the root and therefore, increased accumulation of the hormone in shoots. High concentration of auxin in the young leaves causes meristems or plant stem cells to differentiate as root cells.

In a press release, scientists from the Utrecht University said: “These results are an important step in our understanding of the way plants grow and create novel future possibilities to modify the positioning of various plant organs such as roots, fruits and leaves.” Manipulation of plant architecture may result to crop varieties with increased yield.

Read the complete article at The study appears as an advance online publication of Nature and is available to subscribers at