Nav: Home

Scientists discover how plants tailor growth to the seasons

February 03, 2016

Dmitri A. Nusinow, Ph.D., assistant member at the Danforth Plant Science Center and researchers in his lab studying plants' circadian clock have discovered a gene that allows plants to remember daylight during the long nights of winter, helping them tailor their growth appropriately to the seasons. The gene, PCH1 accumulates at dusk and stabilizes light signals in the early hours of the night, keeping the plant from growing too much during extended dark periods. The findings were published today in a paper titled, "PCH1 integrates circadian and light-signaling pathways to control photoperiod-responsive growth in Arabidopsis," by lead author He Huang, post-doctoral associate and senior author, Nusinow in the open access journal eLife. Nusinow and his team discovered PCH1 in the model plant Arabidopsis, but found that other plants, including rice, have the same gene.

Plants respond to seasonal change in day length by flowering and changing growth patterns. Dawn can occur anywhere from eight hours after dusk in the long days of summer to sixteen hours after dusk in winter and plants have to adapt to seasonal changes in day length to time their growth properly. PCH1 serves as a "molecular memory" of the light plants absorb during the day, delaying the start of growth during long nights. Without PCH1, plants grow more than is ideal during long nights, making a spindly plant that is not as sturdy as those with PCH1.

"Our goal is to manipulate PCH1 in crops to extend the range of latitudes--which have different lengths of day over the growing season--where crops are grown effectively," said Nusinow. "The plants we study are not growing during the day, because they are concentrated on photosynthesis; instead, they grow fastest in the hours just before dawn."

In humans and other animals, light signals perceived in the eye train a master clock in the brain, which coordinates the daily cycles of many bodily processes. "In plants it's a much more intimate system where every cell is affected," said Nusinow. Without a central nervous system, the coordinated response to day length and seasonal changes across the whole plant rely on each cell training itself to the sun. These behaviors include photosynthesis, flowering and growth.

Next the Nusinow lab wants to determine if PCH1 behaves the same in crop species such as soybean, with the goal of making it easier to adapt different crops to grow best at any latitude. As a warming climate changes the temperature--but not the day length--at higher latitudes, this kind of adaptation may prove useful for keeping crops productive.

"As much as global warming will affect climate, it will never change the angle of the sun," Nusinow stated.
-end-
Contributing/Additional Authors:

Rebecca Bindbeutel and Bradley Evans , Danforth Plant Science Center

Sophie Alvarez and Michael Naldrett, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Chan Yul Yoo and Meng Chen, University of California, Riverside

Allison Tielking, high-school student at Mary Institute and St. Louis County Day School in St. Louis, MO

Jessica Goldsworthy, undergraduate at Michigan State University, and 2015 NSF summer research fellow at the Danforth Plant Science Center.

This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (IOS-1456796) to the Nusinow Laboratory, (DBI-1156581) to Sona Pandey, Ph.D., associate member, Danforth Center in support of the Research Experiences as Undergraduates program and the National Institute of Health (R01GM087388) to the Chen Laboratory.

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center's work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To keep up to date with Danforth Center's current operations and areas of research, please visit, http://www.danforthcenter.org, featuring information on Center scientists, news, and the "Roots & Shoots" blog. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter. 

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Related Circadian Clock Articles:

How circadian clocks communicate with each other
Multiple biological clocks control the daily rhythms of physiology and behavior in animals and humans.
Circadian clock changes can alter body's response to diet
Changing the circadian clock in mouse liver can alter how the body responds to diet and also change the microbes living in the digestive track.
Red and violet light reset the circadian clock in algae via novel pathway
A Nagoya University-led team uncovered a pathway in the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii that resets its circadian clock on exposure to red or violet light.
TSRI researchers show how circadian 'clock' may influence cancer pathway
A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute describes an unexpected role for proteins involved with our daily 'circadian' clocks in influencing cancer growth.
Powering up the circadian rhythm
Salk team first to discover protein that controls the strength of body's circadian rhythms.
With a broken circadian clock, even a low-salt diet can raise resting blood pressure, promote disease
In the face of a disrupted circadian rhythm, a low-salt diet and a hormone known to constrict blood vessels have the same unhealthy result: elevated resting blood pressure and vascular disease, scientists report.
Bacteria engineered with synthetic circadian clocks
Many of the body's processes follow a natural daily rhythm or so-called circadian clock, so there are certain times of the day when a person is most alert, when the heart is most efficient, and when the body prefers sleep.
New research helps to explain how temperature shifts the circadian clock
One important aspect of the internal time-keeping system continues to perplex scientists: its complex response to temperature, which can shift the clock forward or backward, but cannot change its 24-hour period.
Circadian clock controls insulin and blood sugar in pancreas
A new Northwestern Medicine study has pinpointed thousands of genetic pathways an internal body clock takes to dictate how and when our pancreas must produce insulin and control blood sugar, findings that could eventually lead to new therapies for children and adults with diabetes.
Uncovering the secrets of sleep and circadian rhythms
Our circadian rhythms tell us when it's time to sleep and energize us at different times of the day; evidence suggests it also plays a role in the development of diseases such as cancer.

Related Circadian Clock Reading:

The Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy, and Transform Your Health from Morning to Midnight
by Satchin Panda PhD (Author)

When we eat may be as important as what we eat.

Like most people, you probably wake up, get hungry for meals and doze off in bed around the same time every day. If you’ve ever experienced jet lag or pulled an all-nighter, you know that this schedule can easily be thrown off kilter. But for some people, that imbalance—difficulty sleeping at night, hunger at odd times, or sudden fatigue at noon—is a constant. If you're one of those people, Dr. Satchin Panda, one of the leading researchers on circadian rhythms, has a plan to reset your body clock.

Beginning with an... View Details


Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life: How to Harness the Power of Clock Genes to Lose Weight, Optimize Your Workout, and Finally Get a Good Night's Sleep
by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar (Author), Michelle D. Seaton (Author), Deepak Chopra (Foreword)

An eye-opening handbook from a leading Ayurvedic physician that blends cutting-edge science on "clock genes" with ancient eastern wisdom to help us understand how to harness the power of chronobiology to effortlessly lose weight, sleep better, exercise stronger, reduce stress, and boost our wellbeing.

"It’s not you, it’s your schedule." Does it sound like magic? It’s not. We’ve all heard of circadian rhythms—those biological processes that give us jet lag and make us night owls or early birds. But few of us know just how profoundly these diurnal patterns affect our overall... View Details


Circadian Clocks: Role in Health and Disease (Physiology in Health and Disease)
by Michelle L. Gumz (Editor)

This book sheds new light on the molecular mechanisms that generate circadian rhythms. It examines how biological rhythms influence physiological processes such as sleep, hormone synthesis and secretion, immunity, kidney function, the cardiovascular system, blood pressure, and the digestive system. Clinical implications are considered while exploring the impact of rhythms on neuropsychiatric disorders and chronotherapy’s potential for reducing cardiovascular risk. Offering a cross-section of expertise in both basic and translational (bench-to-bedside) research, this book serves as a guide... View Details


The Women's Health Body Clock Diet: The 6-Week Plan to Reboot Your Metabolism and Lose Weight Naturally
by Editors of Women's Health (Author)

You’ve tried all the diets and lost a little but gained back a lot! What’s going wrong? Stop blaming yourself; it’s not your fault, says nutritionist Laura Cipullo, RD. In all likelihood, your natural body clock is out of whack, causing hormone disturbances that pack on fat especially in your belly, butt, thighs, and arms. Resetting your internal clock is the answer to working with your body, not against it.

The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet taps the latest scientific research on the interplay of chronobiology and hormones to help you adjust your body clock and other... View Details


Circadian Clocks (Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology)
by Achim Kramer (Editor), Martha Merrow (Editor)

This book provides the reader with a contemporary and comprehensive overview about the molecular, cellular and system-wide principles of circadian clock regulation. Emphasis is placed on the importance of circadian clocks for the timing of therapeutic interventions. View Details


Circadian Clocks (Handbooks of Behavioral Neurobiology)
by Joseph S. Takahashi (Editor), Fred W. Turek (Editor), Robert Y. Moore (Editor)

The Handbook of Behavioral Neurobiology series deals with the aspects of neurosciences that have the most direct and immediate bearing on behavior. It presents the most current research available in the specific areas of sensory modalities. This volume explores circadian rhythms.

View Details


Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing
by Russell G. Foster (Author), Leon Kreitzman (Author)

Why can’t teenagers get out of bed in the morning? How do bees tell the time? Why do some plants open and close their flowers at the same time each day? Why do so many people suffer the misery of jet lag? In this fascinating book, Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman explain the significance of the biological clock, showing how it has played an essential role in evolution and why it continues to play a vitally important role in all living organisms.

The authors tell us that biological clocks are embedded in our genes and reset at sunrise and sunset each day to link astronomical time... View Details


“Understanding the Mammalian Circadian Clock Components at Molecular Level…”

The suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, is considered the “master clock” of the human body.
Understanding the SCN at molecular level is key to unlocking the secrets of the body’s internal clock.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus is the source of our innate biological rhythms, coordinating a variety of physiological processes to environmental levels of light and dark.
Despite its importance, little was previously known about how this area of the brain receives and synthesizes information.
However, scientists are beginning to... View Details


Biological Clocks, Rhythms, and Oscillations: The Theory of Biological Timekeeping (MIT Press)
by Daniel B. Forger (Author)

An introduction to the mathematical, computational, and analytical techniques used for modeling biological rhythms, presenting tools from many disciplines and example applications.

All areas of biology and medicine contain rhythms, and these behaviors are best understood through mathematical tools and techniques. This book offers a survey of mathematical, computational, and analytical techniques used for modeling biological rhythms, gathering these methods for the first time in one volume. Drawing on material from such disciplines as mathematical biology, nonlinear dynamics,... View Details


The Clocks That Time Us: Physiology of the Circadian Timing System (Commonwealth Fund Publications)
by Martin C. Moore-Ede (Author), Frank M. Sulzman (Author), Charles A. Fuller (Author)

The Clocks That Time Us: Physiology of the Circadian Timing System (Commonwealth Fund Publications) View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Person You Become
Over the course of our lives, we shed parts of our old selves, embrace new ones, and redefine who we are. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the experiences that shape the person we become. Guests include aerobatics pilot and public speaker Janine Shepherd, writers Roxane Gay and Taiye Selasi, activist Jackson Bird, and fashion executive Kaustav Dey.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#479 Garden of Marvels (Rebroadcast)
This week we're learning about botany and the colorful science of gardening. Author Ruth Kassinger joins us to discuss her book "A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered that Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of the Way Plants Work." And we'll speak to NASA researcher Gioia Massa about her work to solve the technical challenges of gardening in space.