Photo credit: Molecular Biology News
In this microscopic image of an Arabidopsis plant, stomata are small two-cell openings in the surface of plant cells. Torii and her colleagues identified signals that control where plants place their stomata.
Revealing the molecular mechanism of plant stomata formation
In the age of tablet computers and smart phones, it’s easy to feel inundated and overloaded by information. But on a cellular level, this bombardment is business as usual, and a team of University of Washington researchers has identified a mechanism that some plant cells use to receive complex and contradictory messages from their neighbors.
As they report in a paper published online in Nature, the team led by UW biology professor and senior author Keiko Torii made its discovery as they explored how plants organize cellular structures on their surface.
Like other multicellular creatures, plants must coordinate activity among many different types of cells and tissues. Messages, demands, warnings and alerts shuttle among cells near and far. These messages determine what jobs cells take on and how they work together to build and maintain tissues and organs. As plants grow, they also use this information to decide where new structures like leaves or roots should go.
Torii, lead author Jin Suk Lee and their colleagues focused on how plants decide where to place stomata: tiny, two-cell openings on the surface that connect the plant’s interior with the outside world. Critical for water and gas exchange, stomata develop on the plant’s surface based largely on signals they receive from neighboring cells.
“Stomata are so important for plant productivity,” said Torii, who is also an investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “They’re small but have a big impact.”
Plants must grow and distribute their stomata evenly on the surface because too many or too few can disrupt water balance or photosynthesis.
Lee and Torii studied two signals that plant cells release to control where stomata go. These signals are actually proteins, or small molecules that help cells do work and communicate with one another. One is called Stomagen, which promotes stomata development. The other protein messenger—known by its acronym EPF2—opposes Stomagen by preventing stomata formation.
Read the full story: Molecular Biology News