The secret of why lettuce leaves curl has been found

Basis of curl morphology of lettuce leaves. Courtesy of Huazhong Agricultural University

LsKN1 promotes cytokinin (A-E) and inhibits the synthesis of gibberellin (F-L), resulting in leaf curling. Courtesy of Huazhong Agricultural University

Lettuce is one of the most popular vegetables in the world. Lettuce is often used as a salad, hot pot side dish, etc., and the shape of the leaves is directly related to its sensory quality. Recently, The research group of Kuang Hanhui, a professor at the Key Laboratory of Horticultural Plant Biology of the Ministry of Education of Huazhong Agricultural University, published a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany. The paper elucidates the genetic and molecular mechanisms of the LsKN1 gene for regulating lettuce leaf curl traits.

The study constructed a genetically isolated population of leaf curl phenotypes by hybridizing a lettuce variety with a curly leaf and a lettuce variety with flat leaves. Genetic mapping revealed that one of the leaf curling principal quantitative trait sites in this population is the LSKN1 gene. Further experiments confirmed that this gene regulates leaf curl.

The LsKN1 gene can cause different leaf shape changes in different genetic backgrounds. Further studies found that LsKN1 is a key gene that influences the synthesis and degradation pathways of cytokinin and gibberellin. This pathway increases the cytokinin content in lettuce leaves and reduces gibberellin content, resulting in larger cell area, increased cell number, finer secondary leaf veins, and disordered development of leaf vein cells and mesophyll cells, which eventually leads to the formation of curled leaves.

The content of this study further enriches the theory of leaf development and provides theoretical support for lettuce genetic breeding. The research was completed by the lettuce research team of the Key Laboratory of Horticultural Plant Biology of the Ministry of Education of the University, with Doctoral Student Jia Yue as the first author, Kuang Hanhui and Associate Researcher Yu Changchun as co-corresponding authors. The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China. (Source: China Science Daily Li Chen)

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