Scientists say they have identified the molecular mechanism that enables plants to detect and cope with low oxygen levels that occur when roots or shoots are
inundated with water, a development they say could help farmers breed high-yield, flood-tolerant crops as flooding becomes more common globally. In a study published in Nature, researchers from the University of California, Riverside and the University of Nottingham in the UK describe the subtle changes they observed in the metabolism of plants after they were fully or partially submerged. Specifically, in tests on Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant species, they identified proteins that are actually unstable when oxygen levels are normal, but become more stable when oxygen levels drop, such as during exposure to increased amounts of water; this trait enhances the plants’ ability to survive in flood conditions. Researchers say that in years to come scientists might be able to manipulate this trait, called the protein turnover mechanism, to develop crops capable of surviving flood conditions.
University of Nottingham