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Researchers managed to modify plants to make them grow in the dark



A team of researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have managed to get plants growing in the dark for the first time, and this in the total absence of the Sun's rays they need to naturally grow. It is known by all of us that plants need light and nutrients to grow.

They convert Sunlight into metabolic energy using photoreceptor cells called Phytochromes, a kind of pigment that plants use to detect light [2] that play a very important role in plants growth, germination and blossoming.

Phytochromes have a big influence on the behavioural decisions that plants make when confronted with the risks of competition with other plants, and biomass losses to insect herbivores [4]. 

Phytochromes act this way as central organizers of the overall resource allocation strategy of plants, regulating the relative strength of the signalling circuits controlled by growth-related and defence-related hormones [4]. 

But light is not the only factor affecting the way phytochromes affect plant growth, the temperature, of course, plays also a very important role [3]. Image: See credits under ref. [5] below. 


But in certain areas of the globe Sunlight is as scarce as water in some others, therefore, scientists and researchers have been since a long time ago trying to trigger artificially that growing mechanism that is naturally activated by Sun light and phytochromes. It seems that they have finally managed to do it.

The team of researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology found out that feeding Ceratodon purpureus and Arabidopsis plants with locked phycocyanobilin derivatives, more exactly with the 15 Z anti-phycocyanobilin (15ZaPCB) resulted in increased chlorophyll accumulation, modulation of gravitropism, and induction of side branches in darkness [1]. All phytochrome responses were induced in darkness by 15EaPCB [1].

This discovery opens the door to new developments as it may help farmers and governments to increase crop production and benefits.



[1] Assembly of Synthetic Locked Phycocyanobilin Derivatives with Phytochrome in Vitro and in Vivo in Ceratodon purpureus and Arabidopsis. Yang R, Nishiyama K, Kamiya A, Ukaji Y, Inomata K, Lamparter T. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Botanical Institute I, D-76128 Karlsruhe, Germany.
[2] Wikipedia article on Phytochromes via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytochrome
[3] Phytochromes differentially regulate seed germination responses to light quality and temperature cues during seed maturation. Dechaine JM, Gardner G, Weinig C. Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN 55108, USA.
[4] Illuminated behaviour: phytochrome as a key regulator of light foraging and plant anti-herbivore defence. Ballaré CL. IFEVA, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, and Universidad de Buenos Aires, Avenida San Martín 4453, C1417DSE Buenos Aires, Argentina.
[7] Pixabay image under Public Domain License CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).