Science 2 min read

New Biosensor for Tracking Messenger Substance in Plants

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

To date, scientists still know little about the exact function of the messenger substance phosphatidic acid in plants. Because of this, plant biologists are constantly looking and developing new methods to further study and track its activities.

Phosphatidic acid is a signaling molecule present in both plants and animals. In plants, its formation is usually triggered in response to different biotic and abiotic stress factors like salinity, wounding, pathogen detection, and drought, to name a few.

Aside from signaling stress, this messenger substance influences the flexibility and bending of plantscell membranes. It also helps regulate plant metabolism and localization or activities of proteins.

However, scientists still have no idea which part of the phosphatidic acid pool present in plant cells functions for metabolism and which portion works as the signaling molecule.

But now, a biosensor developed by scientists from the University of Münster in Germany and Nanjing University in China could change everything.

Tracking the Messenger Substance Phosphatidic Acid

The biosensor was built upon the principle of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). It is a fusion protein of the said messenger substance placed between fluorescent blue and yellow proteins that targets the plasma membrane.

When the new biosensor called “PAleon” gets bound to phosphatidic acid, its conformation changes and results to a change in the color of emitted light. This allows scientists to measure the signals using microscopy methods.

“Our approach enables us to elucidate the dynamics of phosphatidic acid more precisely, especially in plants under stress,” Prof. Jörg Kudla from the University of Münster said.

Using the biosensor, Prof. Kudla and his team were able to distinguish where the distribution and concentration of phosphatidic acid change when a plant is exposed to different stimuli. For instance, the researchers observed that if plants’ salt stress increases, the concentration of the signaling molecule also increases in the roots.

“Our method has already provided us with fundamental new insights into the mechanisms of salt tolerance in plants,” Prof. Wenhua Zhang, lead author of the study at Nanjing University, added.

The researchers are now planning to use the biosensor in other cell and tissue regions of plants. Their study was published in the journal Nature Plants.

Read More: How Plants’ Breathing Mechanism Can Help Create Water-Efficient Crops

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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