Hunan University Finds “Regulation Switch” for Plant Growth Speed

Science Network News (reporter Cheng Gang correspondent Li Yanrong) how do plants adjust their growth speed according to changes in the environment? Recently, the important “switch” behind this natural law was found by Yu Feng’s research group in the School of Biology of Hunan University. The researchers mapped the “regulatory circuit map” of the receptor kinase FERONIA, which exists in plants— in adversity, causing plants to enter “dormant” mode, temporarily delaying growth and using more energy to resist adverse factors in the environment; conversely, turning on “growth” mode. The results were published online in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 26 in the form of a lengthy paper.

Scientists have found that in cases that are not conducive to growth, plants produce a hormone that inhibits growth, abscisic acid (ABA), commonly known as “dormant hormone”, but the principle behind it is not very clear. In recent years, the receptor kinase FERONIA, as the “star molecule” of the plant scientific research community, has attracted close attention from the scientific research community, but its internal working mechanism has not yet been fully revealed.

Yu Feng’s team had long set its sights on FERONIA. In 2012, they found that under normal growth conditions, FERONIA can activate the phosphatase AB12 through the small G protein signaling pathway, thereby preventing abscisic acid from emitting signals that inhibit growth. Further studies found that there is a corresponding negative feedback mechanism: under adverse conditions such as pests and diseases, the content of abscisic acid increases, inhibits the phosphatase AB12, and releases the kinase activity of FERON, thereby “turning off” the growth “switch” of the plant – RALF polypeptide signal.

Yu Feng’s team confirmed that it was FERONIA that mediated the cross-“session” between abscisic acid and RALF polypeptide signaling, and ultimately regulated the growth rate of plants in environments such as stress. They took the lead in proposing the above “session” model: under normal growth conditions, the RALF polypeptide signal that regulates plant growth inhibits the abscisic acid signal through its receptor FERONIA, thereby reducing the stress response and accelerating the growth of plants; and under the conditions of stress (such as salt, temperature, pests, etc.), the abscisic acid content is increased and the activity of phosphatase AB12 is inhibited to upregulate the RALF signal response, so that the plant stress response is enhanced, the growth rate is slowed down, and the final viability is enhanced.

According to Yu Feng, the research team is translating this basic theoretical finding into applied research on major crops such as rice to regulate the growth of rice to obtain more high-quality rice.

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