Boyce Thompson Institute developed a genetically encoded biosensor that
could help improve fertilizer use efficiency. The study, published
in/New Phytologist/, is highly beneficial to agriculture.
BTI postdoc fellow, Maria Harrison, explores the symbiotic relationships
between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and land plants. The host
plant exchanges carbon for mineral nutrients such as phosphate, from the
fungus. The fungus uses filament-like structures called hyphae to get
the nutrients out from the host and then into the soil. However, it
remains a mystery how AM fungi impact phosphate content in their hosts,
and how individual host cells react to changes in phosphate content.
This led Harrison and colleagues at Texas A&M University to develop a
biosensor that could monitor phosphate transfer. They improved the
previously developed biosensor, which are fluorescent proteins
genetically encoded in plants to detect ions. The biosensors were
redesigned for use in mycorrhizal root cells, and this allowed the
researchers to observe the variations in phosphate content among the
cells of a/Brachypodium distachyon/root and in the cells of a nearby
fungus under different developmental stages. They were also able to
detect the speed of phosphate transfer to nearby plant cells.
Phosphate biosensors could lead to more efficient fertilizer usage -
Boyce Thompson Institute (btiscience.org)