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Plant cells need lack of oxygen

Oxygen deficiency usually harms plants. However, an international team of plant researchers reports that too much air is even harmful for the development of new leaves and flowers.

Damit Blattsprosse sich entwickeln können, benötigen ihre Stammzellen eine sauerstoffarme Umgebung.
In order for leaf shoots to develop, their stem cells need an environment low in oxygen.
ExplicitImplicity/Wikimedia; CC-BY-2.0

Plants once created the oxygen atmosphere of our planet and still do so today through photosynthesis: An average tree releases around 120 kilograms of oxygen into the air every year. However, the plant cells themselves must also be supplied with oxygen. However, there are areas where the opposite is true, as an international team of plant researchers has now discovered.

Oxygen deficiency stabilises important protein

In the scientific journal "Nature", the scientists from RWTH Aachen University and the University of Heidelberg, among others, report that low oxygen concentrations are among the key conditions for the regulation of growth. The researchers had analyzed the so-called sprout apical meristem, a tissue at the end of the sprout tips. The stem cells there, from which new leaves and flowers develop, are located in an area with a low oxygen concentration. This stabilises the protein ZPR2, which is important for cell growth and differentiation.

Parallels to humans and animals

It was already known that animal and human stem cell types can exist in an oxygen-poor environment. This is also true for plants, as the researchers note with surprise - evolutionarily, the three are worlds apart. Nevertheless, this parallel has developed. It is possible that the low oxygen concentration is necessary for the successful division of stem cells.

Advantage for plant breeders

With regard to plants, the discovery opens up new possibilities for plant breeding: seed producers can now optimize their targets for the selection of new breeding cultures so that they are better adapted to suboptimal conditions such as extreme heat or the risk of flooding.


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