Not just another brick in the (plant cell) wall

Jun 17, 2011
Not just another brick in the (plant cell) wall
Credit: Jose M. Estevez, Ph.D.,

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a new study revealing key steps for controlling plant growth, researchers have shown how the assembly of components of the plant cell wall regulates growth of root hairs. Root hairs are important structures that allow plants to absorb essential nutrients and water from the soil. The research will assist in contributing to the sustainability of Australia’s plant -based industries such as, agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

Co-author Professor Tony Bacic from the ARC Center of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, School of Botany and the Bio21 Institute, at the University of Melbourne, said plant cell walls (plant biomass) represent the world’s largest renewable resource.

“Plant sciences have become a major new driver of international research due to their central role as renewable sources of transport fuels, as functional foods to improve human health, and as a source of raw materials for industrial processes,” he said.

The study will be published in the next issue of the international journal Science.

Most plant roots are covered in fine which seek out nutrients in the and increase the roots’ surface area, allowing more water and nutrients to be absorbed.

“The root hair is therefore very important and this work could have applications for plants growing in dry and nutrient-deficient soils as they need to optimise their nutrient and water uptake,” Professor Bacic said.

The root hair is a single tubular cell which grows out from the plant’s root surface and is surrounded by a wall rich in complex carbohydrates and glycoproteins. This wall surrounds the cell to strengthen it, like a building scaffold.

So to study root hair growth, an international multidisciplinary team of researchers from Argentina, Australia, the United States, Denmark and Brazil targeted genes involved in the production of wall glycoproteins in the model laboratory plant Arabidopsis.

The team identified three groups of genes required for the assembly of the scaffold glycoprotein, called extensin. When the genes were prevented from functioning, the root hairs were stunted. Without these scaffold glycoproteins and their complete sugar decorations they don’t form their correct molecular shape to enable root hair growth. What controls the expression of these genes is the next important question to be addressed.

“This study enhances our fundamental understanding of the growth of , our major renewable resource, and would not have been possible without our international collaboration through the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls,” said Professor Bacic.

Explore further: Chickens to chili peppers: Scientists search for the first genetic engineers

Related Stories

The sweet growth of plant cells

Jun 16, 2011

An international collaboration team unravels the fundamental role that carbohydrates play in the root hairs of Arabidopsis thaliana and shows how cell growth is modulated in this species.

Getting to the root of nutrient sensing

Jun 14, 2010

New research published by Cell Press in the June 15th issue of the journal Developmental Cell, reveals how plants modify their root architecture based on nutrient availability in the soil.

How roots find a route

Feb 28, 2008

Scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich have discovered how roots find their way past obstacles to grow through soil. The discovery, described in the forthcoming edition of Science, also explains how ...

Hairy secret of foraging plants discovered

Feb 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The genes that control the hairy 'mining machine' that makes some plants better at finding nutrients in poor soils than others have been discovered by scientists from Oxford University and ...

Hormone clue to root growth

Jul 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Plant roots provide the crops we eat with water, nutrients and anchorage. Understanding how roots grow and how hormones control that growth is crucial to improving crop yields, which will be necessary to ...

Recommended for you

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Apr 17, 2014

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...