Research groups from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) and the University of Münster (WWU) have discovered a new switch that plants use to control their responses to iron deficiency.
Iron is an essential nutrient for plants. It is needed for a diverse range of metabolic processes, for example for photosynthesis and for respiration. Although there are large quantities of iron in the soil in principle, plants may become iron-deficient because of the specific composition of the soil. Additionally, a plant's iron requirements vary throughout its development depending on external circumstances.
Researchers at HHU under the leadership of Prof. Petra Bauer and her associate Dr. Tzvetina Brumbarova and at WWU under the leadership of Prof. Jörg Kudla and Prof. Uwe Karst have examined the special mechanisms and dynamics of a protein named "FIT" in iron uptake and have discovered cellular information processes that impact FIT.
The FIT protein was discovered by Prof. Bauer's working group, and its regulation mechanisms are being examined at the Institute of Botany at HHU. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, it plays a key role in regulating iron uptake. The researchers have found that iron deficiency triggers calcium signals which have a significant influence on the FIT regulation mechanism. Calcium signal transduction involves a signal transmission whereby the plant converts and passes on information about the environment and triggers stress responses such as a better response to iron deficiency.
"We were able to track down molecular and cellular mechanisms that link FIT to the decoding of calcium signals. This in turn is important when the plant has to control iron uptake dependent on external factors," explain Dr. Brumbarova and Prof. Bauer. Prof. Kudla adds: "Our discovery has implications for biological and also medical questions relating to nutrients, development processes and stress behaviours."
Research is continuing to learn exactly how the plant decides how much iron to absorb and how to transmit this information to the FIT regulator.
Read more about this study at Science Daily.