July 2008 -- An international group of European and US scientists led by the Centre
for Plant Integrative Biology at The University of Nottingham have
uncovered a fascinating new insight into the unseen side of plant
biology - the root.
Although less visible than shoots, leaves and flowers, plant roots are
critical to our lives. They provide the crops we eat with water,
nutrients, a firm anchor and a place to store food.
Roots are complex branching organs and show a wide variation in the way
they grow through the soil to exploit the available resources.
way that new lateral roots are formed and grow is key to this process.
Lateral roots originate deep within the parent root and must emerge
through intervening layers of tissues before entering the soil. Despite
its importance to the integrity and architecture of the root system,
little is known about the regulation of lateral root emergence.
This question has fascinated, yet frustrated, scientists since the nineteenth century.
paper appearing in Nature Cell Biology reveals for the very first time
how lateral root emergence is achieved. It reports that new lateral
roots reprogramme the cells that overlay them, causing them to separate
and enabling the new root to emerge. In short, the scientists have
discovered how new roots open the door to the world outside.
Malcolm Bennett, Biology Director for the Centre for Plant Integrative
Biology and Head of Division of Plant and Crop Sciences, said: "In
addition to providing new biological insight into lateral root
emergence, we have identified a large number of genes that control this
"This is really important because this may enable us to breed crops with improved root architecture in the future."
Centre for Plant Integrative Biology (CPIB) is funded by the Systems
Biology joint initiative of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council (EPSRC) which has provided £27m for six specialised
centres across the UK. The Division of Plant and Crop Sciences is one
of the largest communities of plant scientists in the UK. Around 160
people work in the division, which welcomes visiting scientists from
all over the world, reinforcing its reputation as a world renowned
This international collaboration involved over 20
scientists from laboratories based in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain,
Sweden, USA and UK.
Source : The University of Nottingham