Monday, March 12, 2018

How Plants Overcome Hunger with the Aid of Autophagy

Researchers at Tohoku University have found that plants activate autophagy in their leaf cells to derive the amino acids which are used for survival under energy starved conditions. Autophagy is the processes in which plants will "self eat", consuming portions of their own intracellular proteins in the eukaryotic cells. Plants need solar energy for growth, which will occur in a process called photosynthesis. In nature, due to competition, such as when a larger plant shades another from the sun, or weather, many plants will not be able to receive the amount of sun needed for growth. Therefore researchers set out to discover how plants will cope with their "hunger" when lacking solar energy. In the study, a cress plant known as Arabidopsis thaliana was transferred into complete darkness to expose the plant to hunger stress. The plant continued to grow for several days. It was shown that when the plant was exposed to stress, the autophagic digestion of chloroplast proteins are rapidly activated and amino acid levels increase. Additionally, the levels of branch chain amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine) are increased in the wild type plant. Amino acid recycling is important in crop productivity as amino acids derived from protein breakdown are mobilized and stored in cereal crops before harvest. Current findings show the possibility that the manipulation of autophagy allows plants to modify their amino acids use, and in the future can allow for new ways to improve the quality and production of plants and usage.
Link to article:
Original Study from Tohoku University :

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