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Origin of root offshoots revealed
Date:10/23/2008

Ghent, Belgium VIB researchers at Ghent University have discovered the substance that governs the formation of root offshoots in plants, and how it works. Root offshoots are vitally important for plants and for farmers. Plants draw the necessary nutrients from the soil through their roots. Because they do this best with a well-branched root system, plants must form offshoots of their roots at the right moment. The VIB researchers describe how this process is controlled in the prominent professional journal Science. A key player in this process is a protein called ACR4. Depending on the signals that it receives from its environment, this protein triggers the formation of a root offshoot. Now that we know the control mechanism, we can begin to stimulate plant roots to form more, or fewer, offshoots. This can lead to a more ecological agriculture and to the production of better crops at the same time.

An efficient network

It is difficult to overstate the importance of plants in our lives − they are responsible for our oxygen and for food, clothing, energy, and countless other things. And in turn, the importance of a plant's roots is unquestionable: they provide the plant with necessary nutrients and moisture. The more the roots are subdivided, in breadth and depth, the better they can do their work. So, a well-coordinated, controlled formation of root offshoots is crucial to a plant. But, until now, how a plant determines when and where an offshoot should be formed was unknown.

Asymmetric cell division

The presence of stem cells is very important in the development of plants and animals. Stem cells are cells that can transform themselves into various types of cells. In animals, tissues and organs are formed before birth; but in fully-grown plants, stem cells continue to play a major role in the formation of new organs or tissues, such as root offshoots.

These stem cells are found inside the
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
sooike.stoops@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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