University of Nottingham, United Kingdoms
Uncovering the hidden half of plants: discovering novel ways roots sense and adapt to heterogeneous environments
Root development, water perception, auxin signaling
Plants exhibit a remarkable ability to modify their growth and development in response to environmental signals. This ability is particularly striking during root development where plants have to forage in highly heterogeneous environments. I will describe how plant hormones enable roots to sense and/or respond to environmental signals. Examples include discovering how plants sense availability of moisture in soil by linking intercellular water fluxes with movement of hormones like auxin and ABA, triggering changes in root branching designed to maximise capture of soil resources (Mehra et al, 2022, Science). Plant roots also employ volatile signals like ethylene to sense changes in soil physical properties like compaction stress using a novel gas diffusion based mechanism (Pandey et al, 2021, Science). I will conclude by describing how mechanistic insights about hormone-regulated root plasticity is helping in the design of stress tolerant crops.