New research from UC Riverside identifies a protein that controls plant growth -- good news for an era in which crops can get crushed by climate change. Researchers found the protein, IRK, while looking for clues to the ways plant cells divide or expand. They discovered IRK in the roots cells of a plant related to mustard.
"When this protein is present, the root perceives a signal that tells cells not to divide," said Jaimie Van Norman, who led the study and is an assistant professor of plant sciences at UCR. "If we can get the plant to ignore those signals, we may be able to get it to grow in conditions where it might not otherwise." The team's work on IRK was recently published in Developmental Cell. The research demonstrates that turning off the gene producing IRK causes an increase in the number of times the plant's root cells divide. Additional cells can lead to bigger roots, and perhaps to plants that are better at taking up nutrients from the soil and grow larger.
(Source: Agriculture and Food News, ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com)
Arabidopsis root tip cells stained with a red dye. Image on the right shows increased cell division when IRK is inhibited.