Argentine scientists discover a gene that "slows" the development of the lateral roots of plants
Oct. 16, 2019
By conducting elegant and rigorous experiments, Argentine scientists discovered a mechanism whose cancellation could improve the ability of crops to better absorb water and nutrients from the soil and thus adapt to drought, salinity and other adverse conditions.
Researchers at the Institute of Agrobiotechnology of the Coast (IAL), in the city of Santa Fe, discovered that the AtHB23 gene, which encodes a regulatory protein for the expression of other genes, slows the development of lateral or secondary roots. The finding was made by experimenting with Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant model that shares genes with corn, wheat, soybeans and other important crops.
“In the future we could evaluate genes similar to AtHB23 in species of agronomic interest such as soybeans, corn, sunflower. Arabidopsis is a model system that allows us to advance faster in knowledge. If we identify which genes fulfill the same function in these cultures, we can try to cancel them by gene editing techniques and thus obtain improved cultures that have a greater root development, ”the director of the advancement told the CyTA-Leloir Agency, Dr. Raquel Chan, director of the IAL, which depends on CONICET and the Universidad Nacional del Litoral (UNL).
As described in an article published in the journal "The Plant Journal", IAL researchers discovered that the AtHB23 gene represses the initiation and development of secondary roots that form from the main root of the plant and allow it greater surface of absorption of water and nutrients.
To reach these results, the study authors worked with “silenced” plants for AtHB23, that is, in which the activity of this gene was practically canceled. "These plants had a greater number of secondary and tertiary roots," said Dr. Federico Ariel, director of the Laboratory of Epigenetics and non-coding RNAs at IAL.
On the other hand, the first author of the work and member of the IAL, the doctoral fellow María Florencia Perotti, indicated that they also carried out tests with hormones that participate in the development of the roots. "These experiments made it easier for us to understand the whole system that is quite complex and involves many genes," he said.
"Dilucidating the global dynamic architecture of the root system of plants will open roads for the development of more productive crops," Chan concluded.
Pamela Ribone and Julieta Cabello, also from the IAL, also participated in the advance.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in Spanish. This English summary has been prepared with Google Translate and edited for clarity.
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