Auxins could help crops beat heat and high salinity, UF study suggests

Auxin

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The plant hormones called auxins are well-known for stimulating development of roots and other structures, and now University of Florida scientists have shown that auxins help plants cope with environmental stresses.

The findings could lead to crop varieties that better tolerate heat and salinity, said author Bala Rathinasabapathi, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Our findings show there’s a possibility of manipulating plant stress tolerance with auxins,” Rathinasabapathi said. It may be possible to administer auxins to crops at critical stages of growth, he said, or possibly engineer new varieties that respond to auxins more efficiently.

In the study, Rathinasabapathi and doctoral student Aparna Krishnamurthy compared wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana plants with mutant specimens that weren’t able to transport auxins through their tissues effectively. When subjected to oxidative stress, salt and high temperatures, the wild-type plants fared better than the mutants.

Next, the team will investigate whether auxins could improve stress tolerance in rice plants. Rice is one of the world’s most widely consumed staple crops and is subject to heat and drought damage.

The study was published online by the journal Plant, Cell & Environment.

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Bala Rathinasabapathi, 352-392-1928, ext. 323, brath@ufl.edu

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University of Florida horticultural sciences Professor Bala Rathinasabapathi, left, and doctoral student Aparna Krishnamurthy, check Arabidopsis thaliana plants in Rathinasabapathi’s laboratory on the UF campus in Gainesville – Friday, May 3, 2013. The two are researching plant hormones called auxins that help plants cope with environmental stresses. Their findings may aid development of improved crop varieties that better withstand heat and salinity. (UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones)