by Krista Rantanen, Ph.D.
Hartman et al show in recent Nature Communications (Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 4020, 2019) how plants can actually quite quickly respond to environmental changes by detecting alterations in gas concentration in their surroundings. When plants are subjected to oxygen deprivation as would occur in case of flooding, plants use the accumulating ethylene as a sign of upcoming adverse conditions. This occurs through increasing the production of phytoglobin 1 (PGB1) which inhibits proteolysis of ethylene response factor VII (ERFVII). Increase in ERFVII helps the plant to quickly respond to hypoxic conditions. Interestingly, plants are also able to combine this ethylene signal to the subsequent adaptive hypoxia responses.
Plants grow in a dynamic environment and often encounter low oxygen conditions, for instance flooding. For them, like for all other species, sensing and reacting to the changed environment in a timely and adequate manner is crucial in order to avoid damage and survive.
Due to climate change flooding is an increasing problem that faces major crops. This finding by Hartman et al can be used to increase the flooding tolerance of crops and alleviate the major socio-economical losses caused by crop loss.
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