Biotech Updates

Salk Institute Finds the Genetic Pathway on How Plants Grow Towards Light

April 20, 2012

Plants are naturally and extremely competitive when it comes to acquiring resources such as light. Salk Institute has determined the actual mechanisms and processes on how plants seemingly escape shade and grow towards light.

Researchers of the institute reported that the protein called phytochrome interacting factor 7 (PIF7) plays the role of the plant's messenger from the cellular light sensors to the growth-stimulating hormones called auxins. Photosensitive molecules are present in plants' leaves that gather information about their light situation. These molecules determine whether the plant is getting enough light or is under a shade, all of these are based on the red light the leaves are receiving. That is why when a plant is under a shady region, its leaves will send a message to its stem to grow towards the light.

This is a relevant mechanism for plants to avoid a shade avoidance syndrome. This syndrome is observed when plants stay in a shady for a prolonged period of time. This causes them to flower early and produce fewer seeds, which is just an effort for them to disperse their seeds. The shade avoidance syndrome can lead to crop yield loss due to closely planted crops that block sunlight.

Salk researchers said that this new finding can be used to develop crops to maximize land space for optimum yield or crop production. This may also open new ways on developing crops with stem architectures more appropriate for adjacent field rows and preventing shade avoidance syndrome.