Crop Biotech Update

Bringing Dehydrated Plants "Back to Life"

April 8, 2010

Using resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides), collaborating scientists Ronald Balsamo, associate professor of Biology at Villanova University and Bradley Layton, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics at Drexel University have deciphered the mystery behind the plants' survival mechanism in extreme water loss. The research involved a multi-pronged approach that could detect relative levels of different proteins over time, localizing the protein in spatial regions of plant tissues, and resolving the individual locations of the proteins through a powerful microscopy technique.

The research collaborators found that dehydrins, a particular class of protein that has the ability to attract, sequester and localize water, was prevalent in places near the cell walls. The dehydrins which were surrounded by water molecules may actually allow water to act as a lubricant between the plant cell membrane and the plant cell wall or even between individual cell wall layers. This is important to prevent the drying up cell from becoming crisp that will crumble in extreme water loss. The vascular tissue of the plant is also protected from getting deformed, thus, keeping it intact once water becomes available. Localization of the dehydrin gene and transferring it to other species would be important in conferring drought resistance in other plants.

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