New insights into drought tolerance in plants

drought_tolerance_plant

Spanish researchers found a new family of proteins that controls plant resistance to drought. The work will allow the design of crop plants with improved properties over this type of stress.

Two teams of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC in Spanish) have identified and characterized a new protein family that directly controls the drought tolerance in plants. These proteins facilitate the activation of abscisic acid (ABA) hormone’ signaling, key to the adaptive response to survive environmental stresses. The results have been published in the journal Plant Cell.

Proteins, named CAR, are necessary for ABA receptor molecules to efficiently reach their site of action in the plasma membrane of the cell. “This is crucial because there is where the control of many of drought adaptation processes begins, in particular the regulation of water loss by transpiration or root growth in search of wetter soils” explains Armando Albert, CSIC researcher at the Institute of Physical Chemistry Rocasolano.

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The study was carried out using biochemical, cellular and molecular biology experimental approaches, along with high resolution crystallographic studies performed using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. CAR proteins, also present in crop plants, have a region that allows them to trespass the membrane and other region that interacts with ABA receptors.

Until now, it was known that the ABA receptor molecules performed part of its role in the cell plasma membran, but we didn’t know how these receptors were anchored there” explains Pedro Luis Rodríguez, CSIC researcher at the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology (mixed CSIC and the Universitat Politècnica de València).

Water stress, researchers say, is responsible for major losses in crop yields worldwide. The findings presented in this paper will allow the design of crop plants with improved properties over drought situations.

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