Researchers of the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) at Nagoya University in Japan have developed a technique to boost energy production in plants and enhance their growth. If applied to food crops and fuel plants, the technique could help in creating a sustainable low-carbon society.

Plants require carbon dioxide for energy production in a process called photosynthesis. They absorb the gas mainly through small pores, called stomata, located on the surface of their leaves. The size of these stomata limits carbon dioxide absorption, and therefore energy production, and is controlled by two guard cells on either side of each pore. When light levels increase, these cells respond by opening the stomata more widely.

Image: Wikimedia

Professor Toshinori Kinoshita, Dr Ying Wang and colleagues at the ITbM set out to enhance this response to light by increasing the size of plant stomata and enhancing carbon dioxide absorption.

The researchers genetically manipulated the expression of H+-ATPase, a protein found in guard cell membranes that is key to the opening mechanism. They increased the amount of H+-ATPase in Arabidopsis thaliana plants, also known as thale cress, causing the plants’ stomata to open wider than normal. This led to more carbon dioxide absorption and faster energy production, resulting in plants that grew larger than genetically unaltered plants grown under the same conditions.

Since all plants obtain carbon dioxide in the same way, a similar genetic approach could be applied to enhance the growth of crop plants and those used to generate biofuels. The researchers say this could help increase global food production while lowering carbon emissions.

 

For further information contact:

Professor Toshinori Kinoshita
Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules
World Premier International Research Center Intiative
Nagoya University, Japan
Email: kinoshita@bio.nagoya-u.ac.jp