Researchers identify an important gene for a healthy, nutritious plant

July 30, 2008

Dartmouth researchers identify an important gene for a healthy, nutritious plant. The research paper, published with colleagues from Colorado State University and the University of South Carolina, appeared in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science during the week of July 21.

"There's a lot of attention today on global food shortages," says Mary Lou Guerinot, the principal investigator on the study and one of the authors of the paper. "We've found a gene that is key for proper chloroplast function. This finding might some day help scientists develop plants that grow better and can serve as more nutritious food."

During photosynthesis, chloroplasts are the subcellular compartment used by plant cells to convert light energy to sugars, fueling the plant. This process in the chloroplasts requires iron, and up to 90 percent of the iron in leaf cells is located in chloroplasts.

In this study, Guerinot and her colleagues provide molecular evidence that FRO7, a gene in the FRO family, is involved in chloroplast iron acquisition and is required for efficient photosynthesis. The FRO family is a group of proteins that transfers electrons from ferric iron (Fe3+) to reduce it to another kind of iron (Fe2+). This same lab showed that this process (reduction of iron) was essential for plants to take up iron into the roots from the soil in a study published in 1999 in Nature.

"We have now shown that an analogous process is required for proper chloroplast function," says Guerinot. "Moreover, without FRO7, plants sown in iron deficient soil died as young seedlings. Our findings are of particular interest because how iron gets into chloroplasts has not been well understood despite the significance of iron in chloroplasts."

Guerinot explains that one-third of the soil worldwide is iron deficient, so it is important to understand how plants acquire iron, allocate iron to different parts of the plant and within the cell, and survive under iron limiting conditions. This is not only critical to improve plant growth and crop yields but also to improve human nutrition. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world today and most people get their iron from eating plants.

"Enriching crops with mineral and vitamin nutrients will provide sustainable solutions to malnutrition," she says.

Source: Dartmouth College

Explore further: Researchers identify an important gene for a healthy, nutritious plant

Related Stories

A plant cell recycles its resources in times of scarcity

May 11, 2016

To cope with changes in its aquatic environment and the nutrient deficiencies that may result, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a mobile single-cell alga, must adapt its metabolism for subsistence, notably in terms of sugar. The ...

How green algae assemble their enzymes

March 27, 2017

Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have analysed how green algae manufacture complex components of a hydrogen-producing enzyme. The enzyme, known as the hydrogenase, may be relevant for the biotechnological production ...

New cell component important to tea and wine-making

September 10, 2013

Scientists have discovered where plants build tannins, complex chemicals used by plants for defence and protection. The source is the tannosome, a newly discovered organelle that is found in most land plants.

Scientists get to the root of ancient case of sour grapes

December 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists in Cambridge have discovered that a lowly grape variety grown by peasants - but despised by noblemen - during the Middle Ages was the mother of many of today’s greatest grape varieties, including ...

Recommended for you

East Antarctic Ice Sheet has history of instability

December 13, 2017

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet locks away enough water to raise sea level an estimated 53 meters (174 feet), more than any other ice sheet on the planet. It's also thought to be among the most stable, not gaining or losing ...

0 comments

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.