Nav: Home

Gene protects against toxic byproducts of photosynthesis, helping plants to 'breathe'

March 09, 2016

A research team led by Associate Professor Miyake Chikahiro and PhD student Takagi Daisuke from the Kobe University Graduate School of Agricultural Science have discovered that a certain gene within plants suppresses the toxic molecules formed as byproducts of photosynthesis. These findings have potential applications for plant growth in stressful environments. The research was published on Feb. 16, 2016 in the online version of Plant Physiology.

Photosynthesis is an essential biological process for plants, but it is also a dangerous one. When plants absorb energy from sunlight to photosynthesize, the "extra" energy reacts with oxygen in plant cells to produce harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS). These molecules break down important structures across the plant, and in the process they also produce an extremely toxic reactive carbonyl species (RCS).

Luckily, plants have genes that act as enzymes to neutralize these toxic species. Professor Miyake's research group set out to determine the exact function of one of these genes, known as "AOR" (alkenal/one oxidoreductase). The researchers removed the gene from some plants and compared them to wild species. They discovered that plants without the AOR gene were significantly smaller and lighter than plants with the gene when exposed to a standard 24-hour day/night cycle. However, when plants were constantly exposed to sunlight there was no significant difference in growth between them. This led to an unexpected discovery: the AOR gene has no effect on the daytime process of photosynthesis, but instead protects nighttime respiration.

Plants can only photosynthesize during daylight hours, converting carbon dioxide into starch. During the dark hours plants "breathe", using oxygen to convert the starch into glucose. When the researchers examined the plants which lacked a functioning AOR gene, they found leftover starch in their leaves the next morning. Without a functioning AOR gene, the toxic molecules that had accumulated during the daytime prevented the plants from respiring properly, stunting their growth. However, the plants with an AOR gene did not have leftover starch, and reached a normal size and weight.

"Plants can only function at 20% of their full potential because they are limited by environmental factors such as lack of water", said Professor Miyake. "These findings show that the AOR gene is essential for plants to survive the effects of global warming. We will continue to research the strengths and weaknesses of plants in the face of environmental stress, and I hope to use our findings to overcome environmental limitations."
-end-


Kobe University

Related Photosynthesis Articles:

Scientists design molecular system for artificial photosynthesis
A molecular system for artificial photosynthesis is designed to mimic key functions of the photosynthetic center in green plants -- light absorption, charge separation, and catalysis -- to convert solar energy into chemical energy stored by hydrogen fuel.
Photosynthesis in the dark? Unraveling the mystery of algae evolution
Researchers compared the photosynthetic regulation in glaucophytes with that in cyanobacteria, to elucidate the changes caused by symbiosis in the interaction between photosynthetic electron transfer and other metabolic pathways.
Mechanism behind the electric charges generated by photosynthesis
Photosynthesis requires a mechanism to produce large amounts of chemical energy without losing the oxidative power needed to break down water.
Research shows global photosynthesis on the rise
Researchers found a global historic record by analyzing gases trapped in Antarctic snow to see the rapid rise in photosynthesis over the past 200 years.
Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light
Rice University leads a project to create an efficient, simple-to-manufacture oxygen-evolution catalyst that pairs well with semiconductors for advanced solar cells.
New study shines light on photosynthesis
Researchers have solved a longstanding mystery in photosynthesis, a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy.
Study: Viruses support photosynthesis in bacteria -- an evolutionary advantage?
Viruses propagate by infecting a host cell and reproducing inside.
Accelerated chlorophyll reaction in microdroplets to reveal secret of photosynthesis
The research team of DGIST's fellow Hong-Gil Nam, discovered the natural control of chlorophyll activity.
Mechanism for photosynthesis already existed in primeval microbe
A Japanese research team has discovered an evolutionary model for the biological function that creates CO2 from glucose in photosynthesis.
WSU researchers discover unique microbial photosynthesis
Researchers at Washington State University have discovered a new type of cooperative photosynthesis that could be used in engineering microbial communities for waste treatment and bioenergy production.

Related Photosynthesis Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...