Research sheds light on how plants breathe

New research is set to change the textbook understanding of how plants breathe.

Richard Morris
Richard Morris

Previous explanations of how plants take up carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen have focussed on thickening of the inner walls of guard cells. These cells control the stomata pores which plants use for gas exchange, water regulation and pathogen defence.

In research published in Plant Journal, a team led by Professor Richard Morris from the John Innes Centre, Norwich, Professor Silke Robatzek of The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich and collaborators from the University of Madrid, developed the first full 3D model of a guard cell.

Using a 3D simulation, they discovered three ingredients were necessary for guard cells to work effectively.

Firstly, the level of water or turgor pressure inside the cell, secondly the elasticity of the cell wall, thirdly it’s kidney shaped geometry that converts pressure into shape changes.

Professor Richard Morris said: "This work could help us to understand how to make plants more climate resilient."

"Guard cells are also hot-spots for pathogen attack so understanding what controls the opening and closing of the stomata is important for improving plant health."

Additional work, published in Current Biology, involving the John Innes Centre, the University of Sheffield and the Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge revealed a further secret of guard cell dynamics.

Using atomic force microscopy and computer modelling the team noticed an unexpected stiffening in the guard cell end regions, or poles.

"This polar stiffening reflects a mechanical pinning down of the guard cell ends which prevents stomata increasing in length as they open. This leads to an increased speed of pore opening and larger pores. You get ‘better’ stomata." said Prof Jamie Hobbs from Sheffield University.

The same effect was observed in the model plant Arabidopsis and tomato and maize suggesting it is widespread across plant species.

Professor Morris said the team are planning to extend their research to the study of grass stomata which have a different shape and likely a different underlying mechanism.

Despite the importance of guard cells and their function, the underlying mechanics have so far been poorly understood.

Guard cells change shape in response to turgor pressure - the pressure of water inside the cells. When turgor pressure is high the cells swell, bending away from each other, opening the stomata.

As water leaves the cells, the turgor pressure reduces and the cells become flatter, less kidney shaped, which closes the pore.


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

An effective strategy to retain staff is the best way for any business to avoid a potential recruitment crisis, Neville Stein advises.

GroSouth 2017 update

GroSouth 2017 update

First-time and established exhibitors are preparing to showcase products and services at this year's show in West Sussex, Gavin McEwan reports.

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Vine weevil

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Vine weevil

Avoid costly damage by this serious plant pest.


Opinion... Pepper breeders' wealth of knowledge

Opinion... Pepper breeders' wealth of knowledge

Peter Seabrook looks forward to garden centre pepper-tasting weekends.

Opinion... Shining a light on trading with Europe

Opinion... Shining a light on trading with Europe

Accurate figures are notoriously difficult to get at, but without doubt the UK imports a great deal of its ornamental plant requirement.

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Viewing top-quality plants, both growing and on sale, always gives me pleasure.


Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production
 

Read Tim Edwards

Ornamentals ranking

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Tough retail pricing policies and Brexit opportunities drive the top 30 growth strategies.

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world
 

Read more Peter Seabrook articles