Friday, November 4, 2016

How do Plants Respond to Drought? The answer is on the Molecular Level

How can you tell that a plant needs water? The answer to this question goes to down to the molecular level. The answer can also help agriculture adapt to drought and the climate related stressors.

Studies have shown that plants cope with environmental hardship by employing proteins that act as conductors to keep their responses to stress manageable. The results from this study can help enhance water use in plants when in a drought.

Plants have key hormones that allow them to cope with environmental stressors. One of these hormones is abscisic acid (ABA). ABA aids in seed development and water optimization and it is released when water is scarce or salinity is high. What happens after this hormone is released?

Salk Institue conducted a study in which they tracked the plants genetic activity in response to ABA and a handful of master proteins were identified. These proteins dictated how a plant responds t environmental stressors including drought. The team conducting the study also mapped the location where the proteins bind to DNA. This helped the team define keep factors the coordinate gene expression , which can allow the plants to have an efficient response to changing climate conditions.

The Salk team put the focus of the study toward proteins that respond to ABA. Three day-old seedings of the plant Arabidopsis Thaliana were exposed to ABA and their gene expressions were check regularly for 60 hours. During the study, the team places 33,602 genes into 122 datasets. The data proved that gene expression has a hierarchy of control. Some regulatory proteins contribute the most to gene expression. Also, snapshots of protein binding patterns at a particular time can explain more about gene expression then a wide range of times.

Both of these dynamics can explain that plants responses to environmental triggers is from coordinated genomes.

The biggest struggle of being a plant is coping with environmental stressors. I never would have thought that plants had proteins already inside of them to be able to tolerate harsh conditions. It's important to learn as much as we can about the genetics of plants because these discoveries can assist in plants having the ability to prosper, which can then lead to more people being fed. This study could be the first in a long line of agricultural breakthroughs which will eventually help a lot of people.

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