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Teaching plants to be better spenders

Teaching plants to be better spenders

Image: Better spenders. Dr Lei Li (L) and Professor Harvey Millar (R) say their research could lead to productive crop plants that more wisely manage their energy budgets.

Energy is an all-important currency for plants, and researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at The University of Western Australia have now calculated the cost of one of their biggest expenses. The knowledge could be a key to creating more energy efficient crops. 

To grow and maintain themselves, plants must constantly create new proteins and break down existing ones. The process, called ‘protein turnover’, uses much of a plant’s energy. Armed with a new technique, researchers have determined exactly how much a plant needs to spend on specific proteins. The knowledge can be used to help plants become better energy spenders.

Dr Lei Li, a Centre researcher who is leading the study, said this means they can now measure how long a plant protein lives and how much energy a plant need to spend in order to keep that protein around and functional. “We’ve calculated the lifespan of over a thousand proteins and, importantly, the energy investment needed by a plant to maintain each of them," Dr Li said.“Essentially we’ve figured out the cost, to a plant, of each protein”.

Media issued by The University of Western Australia

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