Navigation Links
ISU research leads to understanding of how crops deal with stress -- yield's biggest enemy

AMES, Iowa - Like people, plants experience stress. And also, like people, the response to that stress can determine success.

People can exercise, or rest, or talk about the problem.

For plants, ways to deal with stress are internal. And ISU researchers are trying to understand how they do it.

Stephen Howell is a professor of genetics, development and cell biology and former director of the Plant Sciences Institute at ISU. His research is featured in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We've discovered a new arm of the pathway by which plants activate a response to environmental stress," he said.

Adverse environmental conditions, such as drought, flood, heat and other stresses, affect yield more than crop pests and diseases. Finding a way to maintain high yields for plants under stress is a goal of plant breeders and other agriculture stakeholders, said Howell.

"These are environmental stresses that the farmers can't control," Howell said. "They are acts of nature. And now seed companies are interested in trying to equip plants with the ability to tolerate stress."

Plant cells produce proteins and ship them to different parts of the cell.

During production and shipment, these proteins move through an area of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

Under normal conditions, these proteins are folded into their normal, healthy three-dimensional structures as they are produced.

When a plant is under stress, its cells produce poorly folded or unfolded proteins. Inside the ER, a built-in, quality-control system senses this and "sets off an alarm in the cell," said Howell.

In response to the alarm, another protein (IRE1) cuts apart an important RNA molecule, but then splices it back together to create a different sequence.

This cut-and-splice event activates a cascade of stress response genes whose products bring about internal defensive measures that help the plant survive.

"As it turns out, responses that are activated under stress conditions actually inhibit the growth of plants," said Howell. "This allows them to conserve their energy to survive the stress conditions."

For plants in the wild, this response is a survival tactic, he said.

In production agriculture crops, however, these responses reduce yields.

"You don't want crop plants to [stop growing]," Howell said. "You want them to continue to grow and produce even though they are under stress."

With the new understanding of this stress response pathway, Howell says, the next step may be to silence the alarm system.

"What may be important is to disable some of these stress responses," said Howell. "That may make the plant be more productive under stress conditions."


Contact: Stephen Howell
Iowa State University

Related biology news :

1. Wistar Institute researcher receives New Innovator award from NIH
2. NC State researchers get to root of parasite genome
3. White Mountain Research Station to host climate change conference
4. Stevens awarded $1M for advanced biofuels research
5. Researchers find animal with ability to survive climate change
6. Researchers find an essential gene for forming ears of corn
7. Researchers note differences between people and animals on calorie restriction
8. Researcher working on destruction of chemical weapons
9. Researchers study acoustic communication in deep-sea fish
10. Researchers discover that growing up too fast may mean dying young in honey bees
11. The Rett Syndrome Research Trust launches operations
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 ... 19 novembre  2015.  --> Paris , ... --> DERMALOG, le leader de l,innovation biométrique, a ... fois passeports et empreintes sur la même surface de ... passeports et l,autre pour les empreintes digitales. Désormais, un ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... Calif. , Nov 16, 2015  Synaptics ... of human interface solutions, today announced expansion of ... TouchView ™ touch controller and display driver ... revolution of smartphones. These new TDDI products add ... TD4100 (HD resolution), TD4302 (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... 11, 2015   Growing need for low-cost, ... has been paving the way for use of ... discrete analytes in clinical, agricultural, environmental, food and ... used in medical applications, however, their adoption is ... to continuous emphasis on improving product quality and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The United States Golf ... the 2016 USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section ... her work with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... year and one of the premier annual events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual ... November 2015, where ISPE hosted the largest number of attendees in more than ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of ... Interest Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person ... few years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing and several new ...
(Date:11/24/2015)...  Twist Bioscience, a company focused on synthetic ... Bioscience chief executive officer, will present at the ... 2015 at 3:10 p.m. Eastern Time at The Lotte New ... --> --> About Twist ... on Twitter. Sign up to follow our Twitter ...
Breaking Biology Technology: