common weed may be 'super plant' that holds key to drought-resistant crops
Portulaca oleracea, an edible plant grown almost any where in the United States. Blooms yellow, small flowers. Credit: ZooFari/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

A common weed harbors important clues about how to create drought resistant crops in a world beset by climate change.

Yale scientists describe how Portulaca oleracea, commonly known as purslane, integrates two distinct metabolic pathways to create a novel type of photosynthesis that enables the weed to endure drought while remaining highly productive, they report August 5 in the journal Science Advances.

“This is a very rare combination of traits and has created a kind of ‘super plant’—one that could be potentially useful in endeavors such as crop engineering,” said Yale’s Erika Edwards, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the paper.

Plants have independently evolved a variety of distinct mechanisms to improve photosynthesis, the process by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water. For instance, corn and sugarcane evolved what is called C4 photosynthesis, which allows the plant to remain productive under high temperatures. Succulents such as cacti and agaves possess another type called CAM photosynthesis, which helps them survive in deserts and other areas with little water. Both C4 and CAM serve different functions but recruit the same biochemical pathway to act as “add-ons” to regular photosynthesis.

What makes the weed purslane unique is that it possesses both of these evolutionary adaptations—which allows it to be both highly productive and also very drought tolerant, an unlikely combination for a plant. Most scientists believed that C4 and CAM operated independently within leaves of purslane.

But the Yale team, led by co-corresponding authors and postdoctoral scholars Jose Moreno-Villena and Haoran Zhou, conducted a spatial analysis of gene expression within the leaves of purslane and found that C4 and CAM activity are totally integrated. They operate in the same cells, with products of CAM reactions being processed by the C4 pathway. This system provides unusual levels of protection for a C4 plant in times of drought.

The researchers also built metabolic flux models that predicted the emergence of an integrated C4+CAM system that mirrors their experimental results.

Understanding this novel metabolic pathway could help scientists devise new ways to engineer crops such as corn to help withstand prolonged drought, the authors say.

“In terms of engineering a CAM cycle into a C4 crop, such as maize, there is still a lot of work to do before that could become a reality,” said Edwards. “But what we’ve shown is that the two pathways can be efficiently integrated and share products. C4 and CAM are more compatible than we had thought, which leads us to suspect that there are many more C4+CAM species out there, waiting to be discovered.” More information: Jose Moreno-Villena et al, Spatial resolution of an integrated C4+CAM photosynthetic metabolism, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn2349. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abn2349 Journal information: Science Advances

Provided by Yale University Citation: Common weed may be ‘super plant’ that holds key to drought-resistant crops (2022, August 5) retrieved 5 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-common-weed-super-key-drought-resistant.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

TECH NEWS RELATED

Global tsunamis driven by underwater volcanic eruptions

The atmospheric plume from the Tonga volcanic eruption, as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA In 1883, there was a volcanic eruption so large it killed tens of thousands of people. It expelled so much ash that, for a time, it changed the colors of sunsets and ...

View more: Global tsunamis driven by underwater volcanic eruptions

Zebrafish provide surprising insight into how the brain reacts when the temperature rises

Zebrafish play the lead role when PhD candidate Anna H. Andreassen experiments to find out how brain cells react to temperature changes. Credit: Ingebjørg Hestvik Which organisms survive and which succumb when the climate changes? A small larval fish is providing surprising insight into how the brain reacts when ...

View more: Zebrafish provide surprising insight into how the brain reacts when the temperature rises

Extinct prehistoric reptile that lived among dinosaurs discovered

Opisthiamimus gregori – Credit: Julius Csotonyi for the Smithsonian Institution An extinct species of lizard-like reptile that belongs to the same ancient lineage as New Zealand’s living tuatara has been discovered by a team involving a UCL researcher. The researchers describe the new species Opisthiamimus gregori, which once inhabited ...

View more: Extinct prehistoric reptile that lived among dinosaurs discovered

Resilience of tree species tested under global warming conditions

Mean simulated daily carbon uptake (Aday, n = 4 chambers per treatment and species) of European beech and pubescent oak growing under control, warming, moisture reduction and warming + moisture reduction conditions during the growing season of 2020 and their respective annual carbon uptake (Atot). The surplus of carbon uptake in warming, moisture ...

View more: Resilience of tree species tested under global warming conditions

Organic matter plays a key role in nitrogen loss from muddy/sandy sediments on East China Sea coastal shelf

Graphical abstract. Credit: Science of The Total Environment (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.158805 Organic matter (OM) is a critical factor that regulates nitrogen loss pathways of denitrification and anammox for microbes in marine ecosystems. Recently, a research team led by Prof. Song Jinming from the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese ...

View more: Organic matter plays a key role in nitrogen loss from muddy/sandy sediments on East China Sea coastal shelf

Molecular markers explore natural population structure and trait-related loci of kiwiberry

Halved fruit of Actinidia arguta hortgem (hardy kiwi) commonly called “Baby Kiwis” or “Kiwi Berries.” Credit: Rillke/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY Actinidia arguta (Sieb. & Zucc.) Planch. ex Miq., also called kiwiberry or baby kiwifruit, belongs to the genus Actinidia and the family Actinidiaceae. It is distinguished from other kiwifruit ...

View more: Molecular markers explore natural population structure and trait-related loci of kiwiberry

Tracking turtle nesting grounds

A team of KAUST researchers has carried out a comprehensive survey of turtle nesting sites along the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea coast. Credit: KAUST; Morgan Bennett Smith Newly discovered turtle nesting sites in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea could help coastal megaprojects minimize their impact on these endangered ...

View more: Tracking turtle nesting grounds

Urban and rural poor are different, according to Swiss study

Social structure by social groups. Note. The figure shows the composition of the poor by age group, nationality, and gender for the poor living in urban, metropolitan, and rural areas. The dashed line shows the composition of the total population. Credit: Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy ...

View more: Urban and rural poor are different, according to Swiss study

Expert discusses the power consumption of next-gen wireless networks

A robot made of sticks

Early career researchers value their jobs, but there's room for improvement

First images of asteroid strike from Webb, Hubble telescopes

NASA-built weather sensors capture vital data on Hurricane Ian

Slots to smartphones: Pandemic sends Australia’s gambling problem online

How to protect your Mac against ransomware and other cyberthreats

Italian Woman Takes Command of International Space Station

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X review: Meet the new performance king

Now Shemaroo offers movie theatre on metaverse

Government orders internet companies to block 67 porn websites

Digital skills gap: crisis and opportunity in the UK tech sector

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News