Science Scene: ‘How does nitric oxide regulate plant growth?'
Plant researcher explores effects of nitric oxide
Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Director of the Plant Biology Graduate Program
What's the big idea?
I received a four-year, $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for my work on nitric oxide effects in plants. The project will determine how nitric oxide (NO) modulates important aspects of plant growth, development and seed yield, processes critical to food security and plant biomass production.
Determining how nitric oxide promotes plant growth can provide
novel insights into optimum food production.
Nitric oxide acts as a signaling molecule in all higher organisms, and the discoverers of the role of NO in cells were awarded the Nobel Prize 20 years ago. In plants, NO acts in multiple processes, including germination, root growth and fertility. Understanding of the mechanisms by which NO exerts its effects on systems critical for plant growth and development will inform all areas of plant science and agriculture.
Nitric oxide is a gas, not the same as “laughing gas” (nitrous oxide), but a gas that is very important to human and plant physiology. It acts as a signal to regulate many things in our bodies, particularly blood flow related to heart health. But it is also important for plant growth and production of seeds, like wheat, corn and rice, which are the major sources of human food.
What happens next?
Determining how nitric oxide promotes plant growth can provide novel insights into optimum food production. In addition, because the fundamental processes that control nitric oxide signaling in cells are common to plants and humans, results of this project will also be relevant to any researcher in the field, regardless of what organism they study.