Nav: Home

A molecular map for the plant sciences

March 12, 2020

Every cell of any organism contains the complete genetic information, or the "blueprint", of a living being, encoded in the sequence of the so-called nucleotide building blocks of DNA. But how does a plant create tissues as diverse as a leaf that converts light into chemical energy and produces oxygen, or a root that absorbs nutrients from the soil?

The answer lies in the protein pattern of the cells of the respective tissue. Proteins are the main molecular players in every cell. They are biocatalysts, transmit signals inside and between cells, form the structure of a cell and much more.

"To form the protein pattern, it is not only important which proteins are present in a tissue, but, more importantly, in what quantities," explains Bernhard Kuster, Professor of Proteomics and Bioanalytics at TUM. For example, proteins of the photosynthesis machinery are found primarily in leaves, but also in seeds, yet at a thousand times lower levels.

Laboratory plants as a model for basic research

The team around Dr. Julia Mergner and Prof. Bernhard Kuster examined the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, using biochemical and analytical high-throughput methods to find out more about the molecular composition.

For 40 years, this rather inconspicuous weed with small white flowers has been the "laboratory mouse" of plant biology. It is small, generally undemanding and easy to grow. These properties have paved the way for its frequent us in genetics and molecular biology. The fact that insights from basic research on Arabidopsis can often be transferred to crop plants also makes Arabidopsis interesting for plant breeding research.

Most of the data was generated using a method called liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, which enables the analysis of thousands of proteins in parallel in one experiment and bioinformatics methods helped analyze the huge amounts of data.

Arabidopsis-Atlas for the global scientific community

"For the first time, we have comprehensively mapped the proteome, that is, all proteins from the tissues of the model plant Arabidopsis," explains Bernhard Kuster. "This allows new insights into the complex biology of plants."

All results of the research work were summarized in a virtual atlas which provides initial answers to the questions:
  • How many of the approximately 27,000 genes exist in the plant as proteins (> 18,000)?
  • Where are they located within the organism (e.g. flower, leaf or stem)?
  • In what approximate quantities do they occur?
All data is freely available in the online database ProteomicsDB, which already contains a protein catalog for the human proteome, which the same team at TUM decoded in 2014.

Research results as the basis for future analysis of crop plants

One can anticipate that there are similarities between Arabidopsis and the molecular maps of other plants. "The Atlas should, therefore, also inspire research on other plants," says Kuster.

In the future, the researchers will turn their attention to the analysis of crops. Of particular interest will be to investigate how the proteome changes when plants are attacked by pests or how plants can adapt to climate change.
-end-
More information:

Interactive access to this unique data resource for plant research is provided via the free database ProteomicsDB. This includes powerful bioinformatic tools for the analysis of Arabidopsis proteins, their modifications and interactions: https://www.proteomicsdb.org

The research project was carried out within the Collaborative Research Center 924 of the German Research Foundation (DFG) Molecular mechanisms regulating yield and yield stability in plants. The sFB924 is coordinated by Claus Schwechheimer, Professor of Systems Biology at TUM: https://sfb924.wzw.tum.de

Institutions participating in the project were TUM (lead), the Helmholtz Center Munich, the LMU Munich University, the University of Regensburg, the University of Tuebingen and Cellzome GmbH in Heidelberg.

Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Related Proteins Articles:

Designing vaccines from artificial proteins
EPFL scientists have developed a new computational approach to create artificial proteins, which showed promising results in vivo as functional vaccines.
New method to monitor Alzheimer's proteins
IBS-CINAP research team has reported a new method to identify the aggregation state of amyloid beta (Aβ) proteins in solution.
Composing new proteins with artificial intelligence
Scientists have long studied how to improve proteins or design new ones.
Hero proteins are here to save other proteins
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered a new group of proteins, remarkable for their unusual shape and abilities to protect against protein clumps associated with neurodegenerative diseases in lab experiments.
Designer proteins
David Baker, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington to speak at the AAAS 2020 session, 'Synthetic Biology: Digital Design of Living Systems.' Prof.
Gone fishin' -- for proteins
Casting lines into human cells to snag proteins, a team of Montreal researchers has solved a 20-year-old mystery of cell biology.
Coupled proteins
Researchers from Heidelberg University and Sendai University in Japan used new biotechnological methods to study how human cells react to and further process external signals.
Understanding the power of honey through its proteins
Honey is a culinary staple that can be found in kitchens around the world.
How proteins become embedded in a cell membrane
Many proteins with important biological functions are embedded in a biomembrane in the cells of humans and other living organisms.
Finding the proteins that unpack DNA
A new method allows researchers to systematically identify specialized proteins called 'nuclesome displacing factors' that unpack DNA inside the nucleus of a cell, making the usually dense DNA more accessible for gene expression and other functions.
More Proteins News and Proteins Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Processing The Pandemic
Between the pandemic and America's reckoning with racism and police brutality, many of us are anxious, angry, and depressed. This hour, TED Fellow and writer Laurel Braitman helps us process it all.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Invisible Allies
As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they've come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm. To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe's biggest foe. This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen and Pat Walters. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.