Login

GPC Members Login
If you have any problems or have forgotten your login please contact [email protected]


Distant Relatives: TOR Protein Regulates Cell Growth in Plants and Animals

Plant researchers study gene which – if out of control – can contribute to cancer spread

Two such different organisms as plants and humans developed from a common precursor cell. Traces of this over one-billion-year kinship remain anchored in the genetic material of both organisms. An international team of plant researchers led by Dr Markus Wirtz and Prof. Dr Rüdiger Hell of Heidelberg University has looked more closely into one such trace – the TOR protein. In human and animal cells, TOR acts as a signal generator that controls both survival and cell growth. The Heidelberg researchers have now discovered how this protein also functions as a growth regulator in plants.

The TOR protein sets the stage for growth only when there is sufficient sulphate available to nourish the plant. The information on the sulphate content of the soil is transmitted to the cells via sugar but not via amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. "This finding can contribute to cultivating nutrient-efficient crops which can then be used in sustainable agriculture," states Prof. Hell.

But knowledge about the TOR protein's regulatory function is important not only for plant researchers. Medical researchers have long been investigating the growth regulator. Whereas TOR is active in healthy human cells only in the presence of sufficient amino acids, an out-of-control TOR protein in cancer cells contributes to rampant tumour proliferation. That is why TOR is a critical target for tumour medications.

In cooperation with researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the Heidelberg plant researchers proved that despite millions of years of evolution, nothing has really changed about the basic function of TOR as a growth regulator. "Since separation from the common precursor, only the regulation mechanisms of the TOR protein have adapted to the different ways of life of humans and plants," explains Markus Wirtz.

The results of this research were published in the journal “Nature Communications”.

Read the paper: Sulfur availability regulates plant growth via glucose-TOR signaling.

Article source: University of Heidelberg.

News

The circadian clock sets the pace of plant growth

The recent award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the three American researchers Hall, Rosbash and Young for their "discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm" has greatly popularized this term -which comes from the Latin words "circa" (around of) and "die" (day)-. Thanks to the discoveries that these scientists did using the fruit fly, today we know that the organisms have an internal clock built of a set of cellular proteins whose amount oscillates in periods of 24 hours. These oscillations, which are autonomously maintained, explain how living organisms adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth's revolutions.


Solving Darwin's 'abominable mystery': How flowering plants conquered the world

Scientists have found an explanation for how flowering plants became dominant so rapidly in ecosystems across the world -- a problem that Charles Darwin called an 'abominable mystery'. In a study published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, Kevin Simonin and Adam Roddy, from San Francisco State University and Yale University respectively, found that flowering plants have small cells relative to other major plant groups and that this small cell size is made possible by a greatly reduced genome size.


How climate change alters plant growth

Global warming affects more than just plant biodiversity - it even alters the way plants grow. A team of researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) joined forces with the Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry (IPB) to discover which molecular processes are involved in plant growth. In the current edition of the internationally renowned journal Current Biology, the group presents its latest findings on the mechanism controlling growth at high temperatures. In the future this could help breed plants that are adapted to global warming.