Nav: Home

The plant that only grows when the going's good...

July 02, 2014

Scientists have identified a new mutant plant that accumulates excessive amounts of starch, which could help to boost crop yields and increase the productivity of plants grown for biofuels.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology looked for excessive starch accumulators in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana that had been mutated using Agrobacterium tumefaciens. In one of the mutant plants, the starch granules were significantly larger compared to the controls. Christened NEX1 (meaning NOVEL STARCH EXCESS 1), the researchers believe that the mutation may have affected an enzyme involved in starch degradation. Alternatively, the starch granules themselves may be abnormal and resistant to being broken down for fuel.

Usually, plants that store excessive amounts of starch are much smaller, as less sucrose is available to fuel growth. Remarkably, nex1 mutants are a similar size to normal, non-mutagenised plants.

Dr Maria Grazia Annunziata, who led the study says: "In appearance, the nex1 mutant does not differ from normal plants however the starch granules are generally larger". It also appears that nex1 plants restrict their growing period to the daytime, allowing them to retain their starch reserves. Normally, plants draw on their starch reserves at night, causing the granules to shrink. In the nex1 mutant, the starch granules remain the same size throughout the night, suggesting that growth is suspended until the daytime. Combining high growth rates with large starch reserves is highly desirable for crops that are used both as silage and to feed humans, such as maize.

The researchers are currently investigating the secret of the nex1 mutant by comparing the expression of genes involved in starch metabolism in nex1 and normal plants.
-end-


Society for Experimental Biology

Related Plants Articles:

Transgenic plants against malaria
Scientists have discovered a gene that allows to double the production of artemisinin in the Artemisia annua plant.
How plants can tell friend from foe
The plant's immune system can recognize whether a piece of RNA is an invader or not based on whether the RNA has a threaded bead-like structure at the end, say University of Tokyo researchers.
Plants at the pump
Regular, unleaded or algae? That's a choice drivers could make at the pump one day.
How do people choose what plants to use?
There are about 400,000 species of plants in the world.
Defend or grow? These plants do both
From natural ecosystems to farmers' fields, plants face a dilemma of energy use: outgrow and outcompete their neighbors for light, or defend themselves against insects and disease.
How do plants protect themselves against sunburn?
To protect themselves against UV-B, which are highly harmful, plants have developed cellular tools to detect them and build biochemical defenses.
Pea plants demonstrate ability to 'gamble' -- a first in plants
An international team of scientists from Oxford University, UK, and Tel-Hai College, Israel, has shown that pea plants can demonstrate sensitivity to risk -- namely, that they can make adaptive choices that take into account environmental variance, an ability previously unknown outside the animal kingdom.
A 'Fitbit' for plants?
Knowing what physical traits a plant has is called phenotyping.
How plants conquered the land
Research at the University of Leeds has identified a key gene that assisted the transition of plants from water to the land around 500 million years ago.
Plants are 'biting' back
Calcium phosphate is a widespread biomineral in the animal kingdom: Bones and teeth largely consist of this very tough mineral substance.

Related Plants 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...