Houseplants ability to survive drought can provide useful knowledge for the climate change era

August 06, 2019

Researchers from the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, have in collaboration with researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in England, demonstrated that certain Aloe species shrink, or more scientifically speaking - fold - their cell walls together. In doing so, the plants preserve resources during drought. Concurrently, the carbohydrate (polysaccharide) composition of their cell walls are altered. The results have just been published in the journal Plant, Cell and Environment.

"Our results tie changes in carbohydrate composition with the Aloe plant's ability to manage extended periods of drought. It is highly relevant, that we understand the physiological mechanisms that allow certain plants to survive under extreme conditions, due to climate change and the potential for severe climatic fluctuations," says plant biologist Louise Isager Ahl of the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

Useful genetic traits

The majority of succulents can survive in areas susceptible to shorter or extended periods of drought. This ability has made succulents popular as houseplants. Aloe vera, along with other Aloe species, have a special tissue in the middle of their leaves known as the hydrenchyma. This tissue has a well-developed ability to control water content in leaves.

One of the mechanisms that succulents use to resist drought is to fold their cell walls together during dehydration and unfold them again as water becomes available. The unique composition of carbohydrates in the cell walls and within the cells of the hydrenchyma is partly responsible for these plants' ability to regulate and retain water. It is a trait that may be transferable to other plants.

"I can imagine that by identifying and understanding the genetic mechanisms allowing Aloe species to fold and unfold their cell walls, we will be able to integrate similar mechanisms into crops to make them more resilient to climate change," says Louise Isager Ahl.

The purple line shows the Aloe Vera cell wall when it is dehydrated and folded.

The bottom half shows the Aloe Vera cell wall when it is hydrated.

Results based on 100-year-old observations

The first descriptions of succulent plant species with folded cell walls were made by a German botanist at the end of the 19th century. His observations were investigated further by another German botanist at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, few researchers have delved into the underlying mechanisms behind cell wall folding. Not until Louise Isager Ahl and Jozef Mravec wondered if there might be a correlation between the changes they observed in carbohydrate composition and the folding of cell walls. Together, they began studying the composition of carbohydrates in Aloe plants, both before and after droughts.

"The ability to survive drought by cell wall adaptations is also found in other succulents, but the changes in carbohydrate composition in Aloe, in relation to drought, had not previously been investigated in Aloes. The unique collaboration between botanists and carbohydrate chemists in this project has provided us with a better understanding of the composition and function of these carbohydrates in relation to the drought management abilities of these plants," says Louise Isager Ahl.
-end-
This study was made available online in April 2019 ahead of final publication in issue July 2019.

Read the journal article in Plant, Cell and Environment:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pce.13560

The research group is consists of: Louise Isager Ahl, Postdoc & PhD, Natural History Museum of Denmark; Nina Rønsted Professor, PhD, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Jozef Mravec, Assistant Professor & PhD, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Bodil Jørgensen, Associate Professor & PhD, Department of Plant and Environmental sciences, Olwen M. Grace, Senior research leader & PhD, Comparative Plant & Fungal Biology, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Dr. Paula J. Rudall, merit researcher (emeritus), Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

University of Copenhagen

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.