Plants `can alert each other of impending drought`

Alike humans, plants can also alert each other of an impending drought, say scientists who claim to have found that plants communicate among themselves with a sort of signal.

Washington: Alike humans, plants can also alert each other of an impending drought, say scientists who claim to have found that plants communicate among themselves with a sort of signal.
An international team, led by ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology in Australia, says that it has found evidence that the very signal not only acts as an alarm but can also allow plants to adapt to drought conditions.

In fact, the scientists have reached the conclusion while analysing how different parts of the cell "talk" to each other under drought conditions in Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant that is a relative of canola.

It is known that there are a series of connected pathways inside all plant and animal cells, which is similar to the production lines of a factory.

For it to work efficiently, each department must be able to communicate product shortages, adverse conditions or breakdowns. In cells, the pathways are regulated by chemical signals and inputs, which can come from many sources.

Gonzalo Estavillo, who led the team, says the chloroplast is the plant organelle which helps in photosynthesis -- that`s the process of conversion of sunlight into food. "The nucleus directs assembly and function of the chloroplast and this requires cross-talk between the two," he said.

In the research involving the Arabidopsis mutant plant, the scientists found that it lacked a protein -- SAL1, which breaks down a small molecule further down the production line called "PAP", a release by the centre said.

As the protein was absent, the production line was broken, so "PAP", which is usually found in the chloroplast, ended up building up in the nucleus.

Surprisingly, this became a kind of drought alarm, telling the plant to save water. Consequently these mutant plants survived 50 per cent longer in drought conditions, say the scientists.

Moreover, the scientists found that normal plants also accumulated PAP during drought conditions and the molecule was able to move between the chloroplast and the nucleus.

"We intend to fully investigate the potential of this remarkable PAP signal. After all, plants are our food and fuel future," Estavillo said.

PTI