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: Vermicompost leachate improves tomato seedling growth

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

Vermicompost leachate improves tomato seedling growth

Nov 21, 2014

Worldwide, drought conditions, extreme temperatures, and high soil saline content all have negative effects on tomato crops. These natural processes reduce soil nutrient content and lifespan, result in reduced plant growth ...

Plant immunity comes at a price

Nov 21, 2014

Plants are under permanent attack by a multitude of pathogens. To win the battle against fungi, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, they have developed a complex and effective immune system. And just as ...

Evolution: The genetic connivances of digits and genitals

Nov 20, 2014

During the development of mammals, the growth and organization of digits are orchestrated by Hox genes, which are activated very early in precise regions of the embryo. These "architect genes" are themselves regulated by ...

Surrogate sushi: Japan biotech for bluefin tuna

Nov 20, 2014

Of all the overfished fish in the seas, luscious, fatty bluefin tuna are among the most threatened. Marine scientist Goro Yamazaki, who is known in this seaside community as "Young Mr. Fish," is working to ...

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.