Plant hormone could help produce biofuels, reduce demand on crops

Nov 14, 2012
Plant hormone could help produce biofuels

(Phys.org)—Scientists at The University of Manchester have identified how a plant hormone can affect the rate of cell division in vascular tissue in plants. The findings demonstrate how the hormone controls plant growth to produce more biomass which could be used to make the next generation of biofuels.

is responsible for providing structural support to plants; for example wood is made up of specialised . It's made by a group of dividing cells present in a structure called the procambium. But how is controlled is poorly understood.

Professor Simon Turner and Dr Peter Etchells from the Faculty of Life Sciences carried out a number of experiments using the gaseous .

Arabidopsis plants were treated with ethylene which resulted in promoting cell division in the procambium being switched on. The team also found that cell division happened earlier in plants exposed to ethylene.

Professor Turner says: "It's well documented that ethylene can increase , but what has not been identified before is how it affects cell division. This is what we wanted to identify, particularly with the benefits this knowledge could bring to the development of biofuels."

The team also found that ethylene signalling interacts with PXY, a gene which has been identified as being essential for coordinated cell divisions in the procambium.

Despite the importance of PXY signalling for promoting vascular cell division, the scientists found that plants that are PXY showed limited reduction in the rate of cell division during the experiments. This was down to the up-regulation of an ethylene pathway that increases the plant's response to the hormone. Overall the results demonstrate that the interaction between ethylene and PXY signalling is responsible for maintaining the plant vascular system.

Dr Etchells says: "Understanding the events that occur in the procambium may help us to understand how we can best utilise plants for increased plant which could be used for biofuel or wood production. It may be possible to manipulate how much vascular tissue can be produced by increasing the number of cells dividing. This in turn would lead to an increase in biomass."

The next stop for the scientists will be to try to increase the growth of vascular tissue in trees through manipulating the division of cells.

Professor Turner believes this could have lasting benefits: "If we can increase the growth rate of wood then it would be possible to provide more plant biomass for use in creating biofuels. The fact that the material can come from a tree rather than a food source, such as maize, would reduce the demand on the world's already overstretched crops."

The research has been published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Explore further: Scientists tap trees' evolutionary databanks to discover environment adaptation strategies

Related Stories

Gene discovery to increase biomass needed for green fuel

Feb 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Manchester scientists have identified the genes that make plants grow fatter and plan to use their research to increase plant biomass in trees and other species - thus helping meet the need ...

Scientists find stem cell switch

Jul 26, 2007

Scientists have discovered how plant stem cells in roots detect soil structure and whether it is favourable for growth.

Regulating those raging (plant) hormones

Aug 21, 2007

The Biblical book of Amos describes the 8th-century BC prophet as a "gatherer" of sycomore figs. Some now think a more correct translation would be "piercer," because that's how ancient farmers got that type of fig to ripen. ...

Recommended for you

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

23 hours ago

The presents are unwrapped. The children's shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

Research sheds light on what causes cells to divide

Dec 24, 2014

When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ...

Locking mechanism found for 'scissors' that cut DNA

Dec 24, 2014

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered what keeps an enzyme from becoming overzealous in its clipping of DNA. Since controlled clipping is required for the production of specialized immune system proteins, ...

User comments : 0

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.