Roots serve as the plant's mouth, absorbing, storing, and channeling water
and nutrients essential for survival. Tremendous research has been done to
develop plants that are more effective at these tasks. In a new study,
researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have identified two proteins -
SERRATE and GRP8 - that regulate whether a cell in plant roots forms a hair
cell or a non-hair cell. Plants that overexpressed GRP8 thrived despite the
absence of a key nutrient, phosphorous.
SERRATE plays a role in alternative splicing and microRNA biogenesis,
processes that can alter
expression in different ways. The researchers looked at plants with reduced
SERRATE levels and found the plants had more and longer hair cells.
The second RNA binding protein they identified was GRP8, known to affect
plant response to stress through regulating processes that affect gene
expression. The researchers found that GRP8-overexpressing plants could turn
on genes that increase the ability to take up and transport phosphate
compared to normal plants, resulting in larger plants. Such plants also
produce more hair cells, readily absorb water from the soil, and do well
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