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New tool offers unprecedented access for root studies
Date:12/20/2011

Stanford, CA Plant roots are fascinating plant organs they not only anchor the plant, but are also the world's most efficient mining companies. Roots live in darkness and direct the activities of the other organs, as well as interact with the surrounding environment. Charles Darwin posited in The Power of Movement of Plants that the root system acts as a plant's brain.

Due to the difficulty of accessing root tissue in intact live plants, research of these hidden parts has always lagged behind research on the more visible parts of plants. But now: a new technology--developed jointly by Carnegie and Stanford University--could revolutionize root research. The findings will be published in the large-scale biology section of the December issue of The Plant Cell.

Understanding roots is crucial to the study of plant physiology because they serve as the interface between a plant and the soil--being solely responsible for taking up water and essential mineral nutrients. Roots must respond quickly to various environmental conditions such as water availability (for example, when being soaked by rain after a period of drought). They must find and exploit nutrients; they must respond to salinization and acidification of the soil; and they must integrate diverse signals such as light and gravity. All of these aspects are very difficult to analyze because of a root's inaccessibility in the soil.

The research team's efforts could revolutionize the entire field of root studies. The team is comprised of a group of plant scientists, including the paper's lead author, Guido Grossmann, along with his Carnegie colleagues (Woei-Jiun Guo, David Ehrhardt and Wolf Frommer) and a group of chemical engineers from Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, (Rene Sit, Stephen Quake and Matthias Meier).

The new technology, called the RootChip, allowed the research team to study roots of eight individual seedlings at the same time
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Contact: Wolf B. Frommer
wfrommwer@stanford.edu
650-325-1521 x208
Carnegie Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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