Important aspects of signalling across cell membranes in plants

Jun 15, 2011
Transmembrane signaling in a plant cell aided by a steroid. Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation

(PhysOrg.com) -- Every living plant cell and animal cell is surrounded by a membrane that helps it communicate with other cells and the outside world. These cellular membranes contain receptor molecules that serve as the cell's eyes and ears.

The accomplish three basic things in the : 1) recognize an outside signal, 2) transport that signal across the cell's membrane and 3) initiate the reading of the signal inside the cell and then initiate the cell's response to that signal. These steps are collectively known as transmembrane signaling.

Transmembrane signaling in has been significantly more studied and observed than that in plant cells. But now, with support from the National Science Foundation, researchers from Joanne Chory's laboratory at the Salk Institute have published new observations about transmembrane signaling in plants; their paper appears in the June 12, 2011, advanced online edition of Nature.

According to the study, transmembrane signaling mechanisms used by plants differ from those used by animals. Specifically, Michael Hothorn of the Salk Institute reports that a small steroid molecule on the outside of the assists in the transmembrane signaling process. By contrast, this sort of molecule and its receptor is generally located inside the nuclei of animal cells.

While studying transmembrane signaling in plants, Hothorn and colleagues observed the steroid, shown in yellow, attach to a membrane-bound receptor, shown in blue. This attachment enabled the steroid's counterpart--a co-receptor protein, shown in orange--to bind to the blue receptor. Once bound, the orange co-receptor and the blue receptor become glued together by the yellow steroid, allowing their intracellular domains to touch and initiate communication.

In the case observed by Hothorn, transmembrane signaling initiated plant growth.

Explore further: Genetic switch regulates a plant's internal clock based on temperature

Related Stories

Mastermind steroid found in plants

Nov 15, 2010

Scientists have known for some time how important plant steroids called brassinosteroids are for regulating plant growth and development. But until now, they did not know how extensive their reach is. Now researchers, including ...

Studies shed new light on early transmembrane signaling

Jan 25, 2010

Two new studies by researchers at the University of Washington further our understanding of the molecular steps in the PLC cascade, a G protein-coupled receptor signaling mechanism that underlies a wide variety of cellular ...

Plants on Steroids: Key Missing Link Discovered

Sep 08, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Plant Biology have discovered a key missing link in the so-called signaling pathway for plant steroid hormones (brassinosteroids). Many important signaling ...

A new system for collaboration in cell communication

Jun 26, 2007

Investigators from the Institute of Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) have identified a new signalling mechanism among cells in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. The researchers found that two independent groups ...

Recommended for you

Environmental pollutants make worms susceptible to cold

Sep 19, 2014

Some pollutants are more harmful in a cold climate than in a hot, because they affect the temperature sensitivity of certain organisms. Now researchers from Danish universities have demonstrated how this ...

User comments : 0