BIOLOGICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Scientists discover a gene that accelerates the growth of plants

CONICET scientists participated in an internationational research study that described the AtSCL28 protein, which works as a regulator of growth in species.


Cell walls seen by confocal microscopy. They are formed in mitosis, the process regulated by AtSCL28. Illustration: Courtesy researchers.

A research team led by Ramiro Rodriguez, CONICET researcher at the ‘Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology of Rosario (IBR CONICET-UNR) published a study in which they described a new gene that promotes the growth of plants. The discovery, which can contribute to the optimization of crops, was made by a group of researchers from the USA and Belgium and was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Plant organs take their final size and shape through a combination of two processes: the production of new cells in specialized areas called meristems and the expansion and differentiation of cells outside those structures. “All multicellular organisms such as animals and plants generate new cells by mitosis, a process that is composed of different phases, is fast and is finely regulated. We found a protein that regulates the speed by which plants go through the last two phases,” Rodriguez explains.

The finding was made from a combination of genomic and molecular biology techniques “to globally analyze the gene expression in each phase of the cell cycle,” Rodriguez comments. The model used was the Arabiodopsis Thaliana plant, based on which the researchers managed to analyze which genes are expressed precisely at the moment when cells divide. “From these data,  we enhanced the characterization of a transcription factor called AtSCL28,” explains Camila Goldy, CONICET postdoctoral fellow at the IBR and first author of the study.

The study shows that “this gene promotes the growth of plants by accelerating the production of new cells in the meristems. Besides, it also regulates the direction in which new cells are produced, this being an essential factor by which plant organs take their size and shape,” describes Goldy.

For agribusiness, the development pattern of each species, together with the plant variety, are valuable aspects for crop yield. “For this reason, factors such as the size, number, shape of the leaves, seeds and other organs of the plants are decisive,” the scientists affirm. Thus, in-depth knowledge of the mechanisms that regulate these processes will allow to develop strategies that increase crop yield by modulating their development, conclude the researchers.

By Yasmín Noel Daus

 

References

Goldy, C., Pedroza-Garcia, J. A., Breakfield, N., Cools, T., Vena, R., Benfey, P. N., … & Rodriguez, R. E. (2021). The Arabidopsis GRAS-type SCL28 transcription factor controls the mitotic cell cycle and division plane orientation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(6). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2005256118

 

About the study

Goldy, Camila. Postdoctoral fellow. IBR

Pedroza- Garcia, José Antonio. Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University y Center for Plant Systems Biology, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (Belgium)

Natalie Breakfield. HHMI, Duke University, Durham y Department of Biology, Duke University (USA).

Toon Cools. Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University y Center for Plant Systems Biology, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (Belgium).

Rodrigo Vena. Support staff Career. IBR.

Philip N. Benfey. HHMI, Duke University, Durham y Department of Biology, Duke University (USA).

Lieven De Veylder. Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University y Center for Plant Systems Biology, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (Belgium).

Javier Palatnik. Researcher. IBR and ‘Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios, Universidad Nacional de Rosario’.

Ramiro E. Rodriguez. Researcher. IBR and ‘Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios, Universidad Nacional de Rosario’.