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Discovery of 'master switch' for the communication process between chloroplast and nuclei of plants

RENO, Nev. -- Scientists have puzzled for years in understanding how plants pass signals of stress due to lack of water or salinity from chloroplast to nucleus. They know that chloroplasts the cellular organelles that give plants their green color have at least three different signals that can indicate a plant is under stress.

Given the challenges the environment will be facing over the coming decades through global warming, this puzzle piece has become more pressing for plant scientists, who hope that understanding the stress responses of plants will, in time, lead to new generations of plants that are, among other things, more drought- and stress-tolerant.

That is why a study that appeared in the internationally recognized journal, "Science," is considered an important step forward in the understanding of how chloroplasts communicate with a cells nucleus when stresses such as drought, heat, salinity or light become too great on the organism.

A research team that includes Shai Koussevitzky, a research associate in the University of Nevada, Renos College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, as well as Ron Mittler, associate professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has determined that multiple distress signals in plants converge on a single pathway, which then channels the information to the nucleus. The study was part of a collaborative effort led by Joanne Chory, professor and director of the Plant Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Koussevitzky, looking at the end of the signaling pathway, found the corresponding binding factor known that ABI4, a known plant transcription factor. It prevents light-induced regulatory factors from activating gene expression. Additional work in the project had determined that the chloroplast-localized, nuclear-encoded protein GUN1 is required for integrating multiple stress-de
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Contact: John Trent
jtrent@unr.edu
775-784-4959
University of Nevada, Reno
2-Apr-2007


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