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A new tool for engineering crop tolerance

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Posted July 22, 2013
Wild-type (left) and mutant (right) Arabidopsis plants grown under phosphorus-limited (P-limited) conditions.

Wild-type (left) and mutant (right) Arabidopsis plants grown under phosphorus-limited (P-limited) conditions.

Tolerance of phosphorus limitation in plants is linked to a previously unidentified lipid family.

Phosphorus (P) is one of three major nutrients required by plants but is lacking on approximately 40% of the world’s arable land. Understanding the mechanisms that plants have evolved to cope with P-limitation could therefore facilitate the engineering of P-limitation tolerant crops. Kazuki Saito, Yozo Okazaki and colleagues from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science and other institutions in Japan have now identified a new class of plant lipid that is essential for P-limitation tolerance1.

Phosphorus-rich phospholipids are the primary component of plant cellular membranes, and plants can mobilize P during times of scarcity by replacing phospholipids with non-P glycerolipids. However, little was known about these non-P glycerolipids due to difficulties in differentiating and characterizing plant lipids, which comprise hundreds of molecules yet are distinguishable only through slight differences in structure.

Saito’s team used a novel mass spectrometry technique they developed previously for untargeted lipid profiling to produce distinctive molecular signatures that could be used for identification. Lipid profiles obtained for the model plant Arabidopsis grown under both P-limited and P-sufficient conditions revealed that the membranes of P-limited plants contained fewer phospholipids and more non-P glycerolipids. Most interestingly, the analysis revealed a previously unknown lipid, UK1.

Read more at: Phys.org

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