Despite evolution that drives a wide variety of differences, many plants work the same way. Now a new study has revealed the different genetic strategies that different flowering plants use to achieve the status quo.
In flowering plants, stem cells are critical to survival. Influenced by environmental factors, stem cells direct how and when a plant will grow. If a plant needs deep roots, higher stems, or more leaves and flowers, it is stem cells that produce new cells for the job.
This is also the reason that too many or too few stem cells can disrupt the growth of the plant.
In charge of all this is the "core genetic circuit found in all flowering plants," says CSHL researcher HHMI researcher Zach Lipman.
In an article published in Nature GeneticsLipman and CSHL Professor David J. Jackson describe the genetic mechanisms promising a "deep-seated stem cell circuit" to maintain a certain function, even if defects occur in a signaling protein called CLV3 and the receptor to which it communicates, CLV1.
"These players are critical to ensuring that the plant has the right number of stem cells throughout life, and we have found that backing systems kick when these players are in danger through chance mutations," explains Lipman.
The researchers determined that although stem cell circuits are essential for flowering plants, genetic backup systems can vary dramatically from plant to plant.
If the gene that produces CLV3 is disturbed by a mutation in the tomato, for example, a tethered gene will stand on it. However, the team of Jackson discovered that in the case of corn, two genes are working in parallel to produce the essential signaling protein.
"I like to compare it to a rowing boat," adds Lipman. "In the tomato there are two people who can row, but only one is rowing, but if the main paddler hits his arm, the other person can take the oars, in the corn, both striving all the time, though not necessarily with equal effort. [rockcress] You have one of the main paddler supported by seven, eight, or nine other grooms in the boat; And it looks like only one has a full-sized oar. The rest simply use very small oars. "
"We were surprised to see such big differences," says Jackson, "but in retrospect it exposes the power of evolution in finding new ways to protect critical developmental circuits."
According to Jackson, Lipman and their colleagues, understanding these gender-specific strategies for protecting key genetic interactions will be essential for achieving "smart crop design" and using genome editing to improve existing agricultural productivity.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. .