Plant light receptors are also used with thermometers

Light-sensitive plant receptors regulate their growth – but they are also sensitive to temperature, allowing you to more accurately respond to changes in the environment.

Global warming is changing the vegetation of the planet and with it the life of the entire biosphere and human civilization. The growth cycle of agricultural plants also changes the usual periods of their germination, flowering and ripening shift. The photoreceptor phytochrome B (phyB) can play a large role in these changes. Sensitive to red and infrared light, the protein is involved in the regulation of the growth processes of almost all plants.

It is known that it exists in two configurations: under the influence of radiation, phyB molecules go into an on state and assemble in the cell nucleus, forming large protein complexes (“photo bodies”). Such complexes inhibit the work of certain genes, and in the light plant growth slows down. If it turned out to be in the shade, then the photo bodies break up into individual phyB proteins, and in this off state they allow the plant to grow, rising to a height where there is already enough light.

It is logical to assume that the temperature affects the phytochrome in the same way: if it is high enough, it should go into the on state, providing growth. However, experiments by Meng Chen and his colleagues at the University of California at Riverside yielded completely unexpected results. They are reported by scientists in an article published in the journal Nature Communications.

The authors examined the behavior of phytochrome in the cells of the leaves and stems of the Arabidopsis thaliana under different lighting and temperature. It was found that an increase in temperature does not cause all photo bodies to decay quickly, as happens in bright light. Instead, they disappear gradually, with each stage of the temperature increase, so scientists conclude that the complexes of the photo bodies are not the same. They are sensitive to different temperature ranges, allowing the plant to more accurately adapt to the current environmental conditions.

“Photobodies are large, dynamic protein complexes. Our results show that they can have a different composition, says Meng Chen. “I think these differences allow photo bodies to respond differently to temperature”. Perhaps in the future they will be able to better understand and use these mechanisms so that the right plants can flourish in the coming warm era.