Scientists have figured out how to change plant metabolism to make them drought tolerant | FREE NEWS

Scientists have figured out how to change plant metabolism to make them drought tolerant

Scientists are conducting research looking at water-efficient alternatives to photosynthesis in a climate that is likely to become hotter and drier in the future. The American Society of Plant Biologists talked about the development of drought-tolerant crops with crassuloic acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis. The environmental benefits of saving water in a new leaf metabolism model are reported in an article in The Plant Cell.

Drought causes large crop losses in many parts of the world, and climate change threatens to exacerbate the situation in both temperate and arid regions. In the new work, Dr. Nadine Töpfer from the Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Research. Leibniz and colleagues from the University of Oxford in the UK analyzed the potential for creating drought-tolerant plants by introducing crassuloic acid metabolism into crops.

Crassuloic acid metabolism (also known as CAM photosynthesis) is a carbon fixation pathway that has evolved in some plants as a result of adaptation to arid climates.

In plants using CAM photosynthesis, the stomata on the leaves remain closed throughout the day to reduce evapotranspiration (in other words, water evaporation). However, they open at night to collect carbon dioxide, which allows them to diffuse malate (malic acid) into the mesophyll cells. At night, CO2 is stored in vacuoles as four-carbon malic acid, and during the day it is transported to chloroplasts, where it is converted back to CO2. This carbon dioxide is then used during photosynthesis. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase (enzyme RuBisCO). It just increases the efficiency of photosynthesis. This mechanism of acid metabolism was first discovered in plants of the Crassulaceae family. The most famous type of crassula in Russia is the fat woman, which has received the nickname “money tree”.

Scientists have used a sophisticated mathematical modeling approach to study the effects of incorporating SAM photosynthesis into various plants.

Lead author Nadine Töpfer, who did this work during her tenure as Marie-Curie PhD with Professor Lee Sweetlow’s group at Oxford, said: “Simulation is a powerful tool for exploring complex systems and it provides insights that can help in field research. I believe our results will serve as an inspiration to researchers who are looking to transfer the water-saving properties of CAM plants to other species. ”

Using simulations over a wide range of temperatures and relative humidity conditions, the study authors asked the question: Will CAM photosynthesis or alternative water saving methods be more productive under conditions where C3 photosynthesis crops are commonly grown?

They found that the vacuum capacity of the leaf is the main factor limiting the efficiency of water use during CAM photosynthesis. They also found that environmental conditions shape the various phases of the CAM cycle. Mathematical modeling made it possible to identify an alternative CAM cycle, which includes mitochondrial isocitrate dehydrogenase as a potential factor of initial carbon fixation at night.

Their results showed not only that the water-saving potential of CAM photosynthesis is strongly dependent on the environment (and the daytime environment is more important than the nighttime one). They also noted that alternative metabolic regimens other than the natural CAM cycle may be beneficial under certain conditions. For example, on shorter days with less extreme temperatures. The findings of the scientists will help humanity prepare for growing food crops in increasingly hot and dry climates.

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