JUL 13, 2021 8:15 AM PDT

The 'Wake Up Call' for Seeds

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Some life forms can enter a kind of dormant state, where they wait for the right conditions so they can reemerge; fungi have spores, viruses have been shown to come back to 'life' after being frozen for thousands of years, and some plant seeds can dry out for hundreds of years until water comes along and causes them to germinate. Dried plant seeds keep the embryonic plant material safe from harm that might be caused by their environment.

Researchers have now learned more about how plant seeds sense the presence of water and restart biological activity. A protein called FLOE1 acts like a switch; it can stop germination when water conditions are unfavorable and can let it go forward if the water levels are right. This work, which has been reported in Cell, may help scientists design plants that can withstand climate change.

"Despite the extraordinary toughness of many seeds, plants are still at their most vulnerable during this stage of their lives, because germination must be precisely timed to ensure the greatest chance of survival. Once germination starts, the plant cannot go back into its hibernation state; the genie can't be put back in the bottle," explained Yanniv Dorone of the Carnegie Institution for Science. "So, a protein like FLOE1 is crucial to a plant's ability to walk the tightrope between too soon and too late."

FLOE1 plays a role in a biological phenomenon known as phase separation, which has been attracting research attention. In cells, pockets of liquids can form, like oil and water, that can quickly bring particular molecules together and promote reactions, then let them disperse rapidly. Sue Rhee, also of the Carnegie Institution for Science, likened them to a hackathon.

"We found that FLOE1's ability to very quickly initiate this type of temporary gathering is crucial to its functionality," said Rhee.

When moisture is close to dormant seeds, FLOE1 proteins move into the cell. This movement is reversible, so if water levels are not optimal, the signal to start germinating can be halted.

"We believe that this is the first study that provides information on how seeds can directly perceive their hydration state and act upon it," Rhee added.

This study was performed with a common plant research model, Arabidopsis. But the researchers are hopeful that these findings apply to others because FLOE1 is found in many different types of plants.

"FLOE1 is the first known protein to reversibly phase separate over hydration-dehydration cycles, but it's likely that similar processes occur in other organisms that have desiccated periods of dormancy, including human pathogens," Dorone said.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Carnegie Institution for Science, Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Methylation Affects the 3D Structure of the Genome
JUN 02, 2021
Methylation Affects the 3D Structure of the Genome
Gene activity has to be carefully controlled by cells so that they maintain their identity and continue to carry out the ...
JUN 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Does Lithium Prevent Colon Cancer?
JUN 10, 2021
Does Lithium Prevent Colon Cancer?
Researchers found that a drug used in the treatment of mental illness can promote the fitness of healthy gut stem cells, ...
JUN 11, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Bad Fat in the Tumor Microenvironment May Disrupt Killer T Cells
JUN 11, 2021
Bad Fat in the Tumor Microenvironment May Disrupt Killer T Cells
The immune system can detect and destroy pathogenic and cancerous cells, but sometimes those dangerous cells can evade t ...
JUN 23, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Expansive RNA Atlas Includes Coding & Non-Coding Molecules
JUN 23, 2021
Expansive RNA Atlas Includes Coding & Non-Coding Molecules
We'e sequenced the human genome, even the parts that are highly repetitive, don't code for protein, and are extremely ch ...
JUL 29, 2021
Immunology
Scientists Discover Bacterial Life on Human Fetuses
JUL 29, 2021
Scientists Discover Bacterial Life on Human Fetuses
A developing fetus in its second trimester of life is changing at an extraordinarily rapid pace––bones are b ...
JUL 26, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Region of Non-Coding DNA That May Help Regulate Telomere Length is ID'ed
JUL 26, 2021
A Region of Non-Coding DNA That May Help Regulate Telomere Length is ID'ed
Many types of cells have to be replenished continuously throughout our lives, and the genome in the nucleus of those cel ...
Loading Comments...