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How plants sense low oxygen levels to survive flooding
Date:10/23/2011

RIVERSIDE, Calif. As countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and parts of the United States and United Kingdom have fallen victim to catastrophic flooding in recent years, tolerance of crops to partial or complete submergence is a key target for global food security. Starved of oxygen, crops cannot survive a flood for long periods of time, leading to drastic reductions in yields for farmers.

Experts at the University of California, Riverside and The University of Nottingham now report they have discovered how plants sense low oxygen levels to survive flooding a finding that could lead eventually to the production of high-yielding, flood-tolerant crops, benefiting farmers, markets and consumers everywhere.

Specifically, the researchers identified the molecular mechanism involved. This mechanism controls key plant proteins, causing them to be unstable when oxygen levels are normal. When roots or shoots are flooded and oxygen levels drop, these proteins become stable.

"When a plant cell is starved for oxygen, it cannot efficiently generate adenosine triphosphate or ATP, the high-energy molecule plants use for energy storage," explained Julia Bailey-Serres, one of the key researchers participating in the study and a professor of genetics in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside. "Because the plant cannot generate enough energy to sustain normal growth, it tries a different approach: it taps into its energy reserves, resulting in more sugars breaking down, as opposed to when oxygen is available, in order to produce ATP. These subtle changes in metabolism are characteristic of low oxygen stress in plant and animal cells. It's similar to the production of lactic acid in our bodies when we exercise. We produce lactic acid as a by-product because we are not producing energy ae
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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