Scientists show that plants have measure of the shortest day

December 23, 2009

( -- It is not only people who feel the effects of short winter days - new research by the University of Edinburgh and the University of Warwick has shed light on how plants calculate their own winter solstice.

A study led by the University of Edinburgh, which included researchers from the University of Warwick, used computer models of a plant known as mouse-ear cress to examine how the plant’s - which regulates the plant’s daily activities - is affected by changes in day length from winter to summer.

It is hoped that the findings will help scientists develop crops that can cope with .

Scientists found a complex connection between the genes that create this internal rhythm - known as a circadian clock - and the genes that cause the plant to flower. The findings give researchers a greater understanding of how daylight affects the daily rhythms of the plant. The rhythms of gene activity shift as daylight changes with the seasons. This in turn affects seasonal changes in , such as flowering.

The study with researchers from the University of Warwick, which drew on data from labs in Europe, the US and Japan, was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and published in the journal Cell.

Dr Isabelle Carre, from the University of Warwick’s Department of Biological Sciences said:

“Computer models are helpful to understand properties of complex biological systems. For example, here, they help us understand how a group of genes interact with each other to determine the time of the year at which a plant is going to flower. Our computer models for flowering time may also with some modifications be used to predict the behaviour of . This may be useful for example to predict the potential impact of climate change on crop behaviour. “

Professor Andrew Millar, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of , who led the study, said: “By understanding how flowering genes work together in a simple plant, we stand a much better chance of understanding how the same genes operate in more complex crops, such as barley and rice.

“Our systems biology approach, which combines mathematical modelling with experiments, gives a new way to explain how a plant’s internal rhythms react and respond to a changing environment. The same approach could be applied to understand how seasonal variations affect breeding in animals, such as sheep.”

“We’re interested in whether all plants have evolved a similar way of sensing day length, and whether the strategy is the same in plants and animals.”

Explore further: Clock-work plants

Related Stories

Clock-work plants

July 22, 2005

Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that the biological clock in plants increases photosynthesis, helping them grow faster. The biological clock, which allows individual plant cells to estimate the time of day, ...

Growing crops to cope with climate change

January 19, 2006

Scientists at a British plant science center say they've found a gene that might help develop crops better able to cope with the changing world climate.

Circadian clock controls plant growth hormone

August 13, 2007

The plant growth hormone auxin is controlled by circadian rhythms within the plant, UC Davis researchers have found. The discovery explains how plants can time their growth to take advantage of resources such as light and ...

Genes identified to protect brassicas from damaging disease

November 1, 2007

Scientists have identified a new way to breed brassicas, which include broccoli, cabbage and oilseed rape, resistant to a damaging virus. Their discovery has characterised a form of resistance that appears to be durable, ...

Clockwork plants

March 25, 2009

( -- How do plants tell the time and the passing of the seasons? Plant scientists are enlisting the help of engineers in their quest to uncover the rhythms of circadian clocks.

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Insect DNA extracted, sequenced from black widow spider web

November 25, 2015

Scientists extracted DNA from spider webs to identify the web's spider architect and the prey that crossed it, according to this proof-of-concept study published November 25, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Charles ...

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Dec 24, 2009
All that computer time to model what a few seeds will show you.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.