Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Drought Resistance Explained

Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Bookmark and Share
Structural study at EMBL reveals how plants respond to water shortages.

Much as adrenaline coursing through our veins drives our body’s reactions to stress, the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) is behind plants’ responses to stressful situations such as drought, but how it does so has been a mystery for years.

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Grenoble, France, and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) in Valencia, Spain discovered that the key lies in the structure of a protein called PYR1 and how it interacts with the hormone.

Their study, published online in Nature, could open up new approaches to increasing crops’ resistance to water shortage.

Under normal conditions, proteins called PP2Cs inhibit the ABA pathway, but when a plant is subjected to drought, the concentration of ABA in its cells increases. This removes the brake from the pathway, allowing the signal for drought response to be carried through the plant’s cells. This turns specific genes on or off, triggering mechanisms for increasing water uptake and storage, and decreasing water loss. But ABA does not interact directly with PP2Cs, so how does it cause them to be inhibited? Recent studies had indicated that the members of a family of 14 proteins might each act as middle-men, but how those proteins detected ABA and inhibited PP2Cs remained a mystery – until now.

A group of scientists headed by José Antonio Marquez from EMBL Grenoble and Pedro Luis Rodriguez from CSIC looked at one member of this family, a protein called PYR1. When they used X-ray crystallography to determine its 3-dimensional structure, the scientists found that the protein looks like a hand.

In the absence of ABA, the hand remains open, but when ABA is present it nestles in the palm of the PYR1 hand, which closes over the hormone as if holding a ball, thereby enabling a PP2C molecule to sit on top of the folded fingers. As these features seem to be conserved across most members of this protein family, these findings confirm the family as the main ABA receptors. Moreover, they elucidate how the whole process of stress response starts: by binding to PYR1, ABA causes it to hijack PP2C molecules, which are therefore not available to block the stress response.

“If you treat plants with ABA before a drought occurs, they take all their water-saving measures before the drought actually hits, so they are more prepared, and more likely to survive that water shortage – they become more tolerant to drought”, Rodriguez explains.

“The problem so far”, Marquez adds, “has been that ABA is very difficult – and expensive – to produce. But thanks to this structural biology approach, we now know what ABA interacts with and how, and this can help to find other molecules with the same effect but which can be feasibly produced and applied.”

To determine the structure of PYR1, the scientists made use of the infrastructure of the Partnership for Structural Biology, including EMBL Grenoble’s high-throughput crystallization facilities and the beamlines at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, located in the same campus as EMBL Grenoble.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Finding Links and Missing Genes
A catalogue of large-scale genetic changes around the world.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Ages Apart
Multifaceted approach measured how brain and liver age differently.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Iron Regulators Join War on Pathogens
Iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) play an important role in the body’s immune system.
Friday, July 17, 2015
EMBL Scientists Solve Decades-Old Cell Biology Puzzle
Behaviour of clathrin proteins, crucial for endocytosis, is clarified using new imaging techniques.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
It Runs in the Family
Distantly related viruses share a common machinery for replication.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
The Battle for Iron
Understanding anaemias of the chronically ill.
Saturday, February 07, 2015
Protecting us from Our Cells
Growth factor boosts natural defence against auto-immune disorders.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Double Act: How a Single Molecule Can Attract and Repel Growing Brain Connections
The 3D structure of Netrin-1 bound to DCC shows Netrin-1 binds to two DCC molecules in different ways.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
Cancer by Remote-Control
Overlooked DNA shuffling drives deadly paediatric brain tumour.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Wired for Change
First steps of gene regulation evolution revealed.
Monday, August 05, 2013
More than Meets the Eye
‘Transformer’ protein makes different sized transport pods.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Rigged to Explode?
Inherited mutation links exploding chromosomes to cancer.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Multi-tasking Protein Provides New Approaches for Anti-tuberculosis Drugs
Scientists from EMBL reveal new insights into the workings of enzymes from a group of bacteria including Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Human Genome’s Breaking Points
Comprehensive catalogue uncovers genetic sequence of large-scale differences between human genomes.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
EMBL Scientists Uncover Counterpart of Cerebral Cortex in Marine Worms
Findings give an idea of what the most ancient higher brain centres looked like, and what our distant ancestors used them for.
Friday, September 03, 2010
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos