Plant scientists at Iowa State University (ISU) have completed a new study
describing the genetic pathways at work when corn plants respond to heat
stress, a step that could lead to crops better capable of withstanding
stress. The research project mapped the stress response detected by the
endoplasmic reticulum, an organelle in cells of corn seedlings.
To mimic stressful environmental conditions, the researchers applied a
chemical to corn seedlings and then tracked the activity of around 40,000
genes using several high throughput technologies. This is one of the first
studies on maize stress to be carried out at this level, said Renu
Srivastava, an assistant scientist in the ISU Plant Sciences Institute and a
co-author of the study. The scientists exposed the plants to persistent
stress and found the plants could adapt - at least for a time. However, with
persistent stress, the cells eventually "give up," which quickly leads to
cell death, Srivastava said.
The research was a multilevel study in which the scientists analyzed massive
datasets to account for the expression of tens of thousands of plant genes.
The size of the study required a multi-institutional effort that included
scientists at Iowa State, Michigan State, and the University of North