Using an approach called chemical biology, Australian scientists are
using drugs to learn how a plant's biological system functions.
Particularly, their objective is to understand how metabolism affects
the plant's circadian rhythm which is important to its optimization of
sunlight used for photosynthesis and managing energy reserves at night.
Circadian clocks work by turning on and off at least one-third of animal
genes and proteins every day. Thegenesthat are turned on at a specific
time of the day dictate how the body responds to daily activities. Like
animals, plants have circadian clocks that affect metabolism and growth.
Their circadian clock influences how well the plant responds to stresses
like drought, heat, and pathogens.
The scientists from the University of Melbourne investigated how the
circadian clock of crops can be used to improve yields. They explored
using different drugs and determined that pentamidine isethionate, a
drug used to treat sleeping sickness and severe pneumonia, impaired
plant growth and slowed down the plant's circadian clock. They also
found that other drugs work differently in plant cells.
By learning more about how plant metabolism is related to the circadian
rhythm, the scientists determined that plant cells work similarly to
animal cells, which is why the drugs have an effect on plants. Their
findings can potentially find new uses for drugs which include the
development of new herbicides, boosting crop growth by triggering
metabolism at the right time of the day or enhancing circadian rhythms
to maximize crop performance.
Drugging plants to learn their secrets | Pursuit by The University of