Plants measure their energy status to define their response to stress: the journal PNAS publishes research conducted by Sant'Anna School and CNR Pisa
A research conducted by researchers at the PlantLab (Center of Plant Sciences) of the Sant'Anna School and the CNR in Pisa has identified the link between the availability of energy in the plant and its ability to respond appropriately to a condition of environmental stress. The paper, published in the prestigious journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA) shows that only if the plant has an adequate 'reserve' of energy will it be able to activate the molecular response to stress and thus survive.
Specifically, it has been shown that when a plant is flooded by excess rain, the adaptive response, and thus the survival of the plant itself, is conditioned by the presence of a sufficient level of energy within the plant to keep the TOR protein, which is the energy sensor in plants and animals, active. TOR, therefore, activates the oxygen sensor, which, upon noticing the low level of air in the submerged plant, induces the plant's adaptive response: it modifies the plant's own energy metabolism, the development of the plant's structure (roots, air-conducting tissues) to allow the plant to survive until the water that submerges the plant itself recedes and the plant resumes its normal life in an aerobic environment.
"These results - explain Pierdomenico Perata, full professor of Plant Physiology at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, and Elena Loreti, researcher at the CNR Institute of Agricultural Biology and Biotechnology, coordinators of the study - are the fruit of many years of work, also in collaboration with other European colleagues. They are results that significantly advance our knowledge on the adaptation of plants to flooding conditions. Flooding phenomena are becoming increasingly frequent in the context of climate change. The development of crop plant varieties that can withstand extreme rainfall events is therefore crucial to ensure food security".