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How plants grow to escape shade…

April 18, 2012

Article from Psys.org…

A plant’s primary weapon in this fight is the ability to grow towards the light, getting just the amount it needs and shadowing its competition. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have determined precisely how leaves tell stems to grow when a plant is caught in a shady place.

In a paper published April 15 in , the researchers report that a protein known as phytochrome interacting factor 7 (PIF7) serves as the key messenger between a plant’s cellular light sensors and the production of auxins, hormones that stimulate stem growth.

“We knew how leaves sensed light and that auxins drove growth, but we didn’t understand the pathway that connected these two fundamental systems,” says Joanne Chory, professor and director of the Salk’s Plant Biology Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Now that we know PIF7 is the relay, we have a new tool to develop crops that optimize field space and thus produce more food or for biofuels and biorenewable chemicals.”

gather intelligence about their light situation —- including whether they are surrounded by other light-thieving plants —- through photosensitive molecules in their leaves. These sensors determine whether a plant is in full sunlight or in the shade of other plants, based on the wavelength of red light striking the leaves.

Read the rest of the article here, at phys.org

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