The plant that only grows when the going's good

Jul 02, 2014

Scientists have identified a new mutant plant that accumulates excessive amounts of starch, which could help to boost crop yields and increase the productivity of plants grown for biofuels.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology looked for excessive starch accumulators in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana that had been mutated using Agrobacterium tumefaciens. In one of the mutant plants, the starch granules were significantly larger compared to the controls. Christened NEX1 (meaning NOVEL STARCH EXCESS 1), the researchers believe that the mutation may have affected an enzyme involved in starch degradation. Alternatively, the starch granules themselves may be abnormal and resistant to being broken down for fuel.

Usually, plants that store excessive amounts of starch are much smaller, as less sucrose is available to fuel growth. Remarkably, nex1 mutants are a similar size to normal, non-mutagenised plants.

Dr Maria Grazia Annunziata, who led the study says: "In appearance, the nex1 mutant does not differ from normal plants however the starch granules are generally larger". It also appears that nex1 plants restrict their growing period to the daytime, allowing them to retain their starch reserves. Normally, plants draw on their starch reserves at night, causing the granules to shrink. In the nex1 mutant, the starch granules remain the same size throughout the night, suggesting that growth is suspended until the daytime. Combining high growth rates with large starch reserves is highly desirable for crops that are used both as silage and to feed humans, such as maize.

The researchers are currently investigating the secret of the nex1 mutant by comparing the expression of genes involved in starch metabolism in nex1 and normal .

This work is to be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting 2014 in Manchester on Thursday 3rd July.

Explore further: Heaven scent: Finding may help restore fragrance to roses

Related Stories

Breeding potatoes with improved properties

Nov 29, 2010

It is possible to breed potatoes in such a way that they produce new types of starch for use as a new and improved plant-based raw material in the construction, paper, glue, fodder and food industries. These ...

Combating obesity with new Okinawan rice

Mar 27, 2014

In recent years, Okinawa has recorded the dubious distinction of having the highest obesity rate in Japan. Preventing obesity-related diseases is an urgent issue. Professor Hidetoshi Saze of the OIST Plant ...

SEX4, starch and phosphorylation

Jun 26, 2008

Some of the new molecular mechanisms and regulatory components in starch metabolism have been identified by Dr. Samuel Zeeman and his colleagues. Dr. Zeeman, of the Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, ...

Recommended for you

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Jul 02, 2015

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

The hidden treasure in RNA-seq

Jul 01, 2015

Michael Stadler and his team at the Friedrich Miescher institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have developed a novel computational approach to analyze RNA-seq data. By comparing intronic and exonic RNA reads, ...

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.