Plant biologists at the University of California San Diego have developed a new nanosensor that lets them measure the chemical stress levels in plant cells. Their findings, published in the journal eLife, are more relevant than ever as changing climatic conditions put plants under more stress at rapid rates.
The nanosensor monitors SnRK2 protein kinase activity plant cells. SnRK2 kinases (sucrose-non-fermenting-1-related protein kinase-2s) play a role in triggering the closure of stoma, small pore on leaves through which carbon dioxide enters and water evaporates. Hence, SnRK2 are critical in responding to aridity and drought. Learn more about this process in the video below.
The researchers are calling the nanosensor “SNACS” (SnRK2 activity sensor). Senior author Julian Schroeder comments on the development of this technology. "Previously, it was not possible to investigate time-resolved SnRK2 activity in living plant cells. [Now] the SNACS sensor reports direct real-time visualization of SnRK2 kinase activity in single live plant cells or tissues."
The team says that SNACS can act as a tool to answer questions about plants’ reactions to certain environmental conditions pertaining to atmospheric carbon dioxide. For example, using SNACS, they already demonstrated that elevated carbon dioxide does not activate SnRK2 kinases.
"Our findings could benefit researchers investigating environmental stress responses in plants and analyzing how different signaling pathways interact with one another in plant cells," said co-corresponding author Yohei Takahashi. "The ability to investigate time-resolved SnRK2 kinase regulation in live plants is of particular importance for understanding environmental stress responses of plant cells."