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Researchers discover how the storehouses of plant cells are formed
Date:8/19/2010

Bite into a sour apple and you destroy them plant cell vacuoles. Even though these vacuoles make up the largest volume of plant cells, only little was known about how these cellular storehouses form and how the substances stored in them find their way there. Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have now discovered a new protein essential to the formation of vacuoles. In the process they uncovered new clues that may help demystify the vacuole formation mechanism. They now hope to unravel the process completely.

Cells whether plant, animal or human comprise a variety of organelles, delineated structures that assume different roles within the cells. In plant cells, the largest organelle by far is the so-called vacuole. Enveloped by a membrane, it stores substances vital for the plant cell -- for example, proteins essential for our nutrition found in peas, beans and lentils, the pigments of blossoms, the bitter substances in tea, or the fruity acids of sour apples. How these vacuoles are formed inside plant cells and how the substances stored in them get there are only vaguely understood. A research team from the TUM Center of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan has now discovered a new protein that is indispensable in the formation of vacuoles.

Prof. Claus Schwechheimer and his team of scientists from the Department of Plant Systems Biology used Arabidopsis thaliana as the model plant for their investigations. "Using comparisons of the wild-type variant with a mutant, we were able to demonstrate that a very specific protein substance was all-important in the formation of functional vacuoles," says Schwechheimer. Two things occur when this protein is missing: First, instead of one large vacuole, many small, partially functional ones are produced in the cell. Second, the transport of substances within the plant cells falls into disarray. Instead of finding their way into the vacuoles, the important substances are
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Contact: Jana Bodicky
bodicky@zv.tum.de
49-816-171-5403
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert  

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