Breakthrough Discovery Reveals Plants’ Lightning-Fast Response to Growth Hormone

by Anna

In a groundbreaking study, Wageningen University & Research has unveiled a revelation about plants’ response to the growth hormone auxin, demonstrating an astonishing speed of reaction within seconds, significantly faster than previously believed. Published in the scientific journal Cell, the research sheds light on an ancient mechanism inherited from the ancestor of plants.

As people globally embraced retro practices during lockdown, such as baking bread and nurturing plants, the role of rooting powder, containing the natural plant hormone auxin, has become central to enhancing root development. The latest findings, led by researcher André Kuhn and explained by Professor Dolf Weijers, indicate that within seconds of contact with auxin, plants undergo molecular-level changes, diverging from the conventional understanding of growth processes.

Unlike processes involving genetic activity, this rapid response involves the modification of previously produced proteins. Professor Weijers emphasizes, “Within ten minutes, the cell adjusts five percent of all its proteins.” This involves adding a small, negatively charged molecule – a phosphate group – to proteins, a process significantly faster than DNA transcription. The subtle modification has a profound impact, altering protein activation, disposal, or interaction, akin to reshaping the building blocks of a Lego house.

The study extends beyond land plants to include algae, suggesting that the ultra-fast response system is an ancient mechanism dating back 700 million years to a common single-celled ancestor of plants and algae. Although this ancestor did not produce auxin, the plant hormone was present in nature, produced by bacteria. This prompts speculation that the mechanism evolved to detect bacteria-produced auxin and rapidly respond to environmental stimuli.

The discovery challenges traditional perspectives on auxin, providing new insights into its role in plant growth and development. The researchers hope this knowledge prompts a reevaluation of the hormone, offering a fresh perspective on its influence. Professor Weijers notes, “There’s a lot more happening under the hood of plants than we always thought,” revealing the intricate and ancient mechanisms governing plant responses.

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