Super Plant Solution To Both Climate Change & Food Security

Targeting the protein AtPAP2 to both the mitochondria and chloroplasts makes plants grow faster and produce 38 to 57 percent more seeds.

AsianScientist (Oct. 26, 2015) – A research team led by Dr. Lim Boon-leong with his former PhD student Dr. Law Yee-song from the School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has developed a new strategy to promote plant growth and seed yield by 38 percent to 57 percent in a model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Their work, published in Biotechnology for Biofuels and Plant Physiology, could help mitigate global warming by increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption from the atmosphere.

According to NASA and NOAA, 2014 was the hottest year since 1880 and the ten warmest years in the instrumental record have occurred since 1998. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations confirmed in its Fifth Assessment Report that cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming and predicted that by 2100, the global mean surface temperature may increase by 3.7°C to 4.8°C over the average for 1850–1900 for a median climate response if there is no additional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission is put in place.

To alleviate the problem and slow down the rate of global warming, increasing the rate of CO2 absorption by plants or algae is one possible strategy. Scientists from Hong Kong University have identified a plant-growth promoting gene that might do the trick: purple acid phosphatase 2 (AtPAP2).

AtPAP2 is dually targeted to two energy-generating organelles of plant cells: chloroplasts and mitochondria. Chloroplasts carry out photosynthesis, a process that fixes CO2 in atmosphere into sugars using solar energy. The sugars are then used for plant growth including cell wall, biomass and seeds, or consumed by mitochondria to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an important energy source for many cellular processes.

The research team found that by dual expression of AtPAP2 on chloroplasts and mitochondria, the engineered plants can grow faster and produce 38 to 57 percent more seeds. It is because AtPAP2 can modulate the import of a number of specific proteins into chloroplasts and mitochondria, and subsequently boost their capability to harvest solar energy and generate ATP. AtPAP2 is the first protein that can modulate energy outputs from these two organelles simultaneously.

“We are happy to make this discovery which has aroused great interest from many plant scientists, as our research findings would allow plant scientists to study the impacts of high energy supply to various biological processes in plant cell, and to study how energy supply affects plants’ abilities to cope with various biotic and abiotic stresses. However, it is just the beginning of a number of research projects, and funding support from the community is certainly essential for future discoveries,” said Lim.

The articles can be found at:
Law et al. (2015) Phosphorylation and Dephosphorylation of the Presequence of pMORF3 During Import into Mitochondria from Arabidopsis thaliana.
Zhang et al. (2015) Over-expression of AtPAP2 in Camelina sativa Leads to Faster Plant Growth and Higher Seed Yield.


Source: The University of Hong Kong.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist