Friday, 27 October 2023
Researchers have discovered a protein that seals plant roots to regulate the uptake of nutrients and water from the soil, the discovery could help develop climate proof crops that require less water and chemical fertilisers.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham identified new components of the lignin barrier in plant roots and the specific function of dirigent proteins (DPs), located in the root endodermis that control water and nutrient uptake. Their findings have been published today in Science Direct.
Plant roots function by absorbing mineral nutrients and water from the soil and also controlling their proper balance in the plant. This control is exerted by a specialised layer of root tissue called the endodermis.
The endodermis contains a barrier to the movement of solutes and water that is made of lignin, the same material present in wood. This impermeable barrier blocks the uncontrolled movement of material into the root, by forming a tight seal between cells. This seal ensures the only pathway for nutrients and water to be taken up by roots is through the cells of the endodermis. This allows full cellular control over what enters and leaves the plant via the roots.
This research has identified new components of the lignin deposition machinery that focus on the function of dirigent proteins (DPs), located in the root endodermis. These proteins act in coordination with other described root regulatory components to direct and organize the correct deposition of lignin in the endodermis allowing the plant to ensure it receives the optimum balance of nutrients from the soil.
With record temperatures being reached in parts of the world this year and erratic rainfall it is ever more important to understand the mechanisms of plants so we can future proof them to secure future food supplies. This research shows how plant roots regulate their uptake of water and nutrients through the deposition of lignin, which is regulated by DPs. Without these proteins, proper root sealing is not completed and the nutrient balance in the plant is compromised.
We can use this knowledge to engineer plants to be able to grow with less water and chemical fertilisers.
More information is available from Dr Gabriel Castrillo on firstname.lastname@example.org
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About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.