A plant scientist at the University of Missouri has discovered a new way to measure stress in plants, which occurs at a time when plants are experiencing various stressors such as heat, drought and flooding due to extreme weather events.
The discovery involves a collection of once-malignant molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are produced by anything that uses oxygen, such as animals, people and plants. But Ron Mittler at MU has discovered a redeeming quality of ROS – its role as a communication signal that can tell if plants are under stress.
“When heat and drought stressors add up, plants don’t have groundwater to extract from, so they close their stomata. [leaf pores], and that makes the leaves very hot,” said Mittler, whose appointment is from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. This is why the combination of drought and heat is really dangerous, as the leaf temperature is much higher than with a plant subjected to heat alone. The change can be between two and four degrees, and it can mean the difference between life and death. »
Plant stress is also linked to crop loss, but existing analytical research on the subject often focuses on how crops respond to a single stressor. However, Mittler said a plant’s survival rate will drop dramatically as the number of stressors continues to increase to three to six different stressors. The key, he said, is controlling ROS levels. Too much or too little can be harmful, but an optimal level of ROS can be considered safe for life.
Born and raised in Israel, Mittler wanted to be a veterinarian growing up. But after enrolling at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he remembers spending a summer in the late 1980s as a graduate student working in an agricultural laboratory, where he became “addicted” to science, in particular to the role of ROS in plants. Mittler has studied ROS ever since.
“At the time, we were trying to identify why certain cell lines were more resistant to salinity than others,” he said. “It was my first scientific research problem. But then I started working on desert plants and from there on reactive oxygen species and blue-green algae. »
“Reactive Oxygen Species Signaling in Plant Stress Responses”, was published in Nature Journals Molecular Cell BiologyAn analysis of Nature. Other authors include Sara Zandalinas and Yosef Fichman at MU; and Frank Van Breusegem from the University of Ghent in Belgium.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (IOS-2110017, IOS-1353886, MCB-1936590 and IOS-1932639), National Institutes of Health, University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Plant Group, University of Missouri, Research Foundation – – Founders (project G0D7914N ) and Excellence in Scientific Research (project 30829584). The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official opinion of the funding bodies.
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