Plant Science

Making spinach look like lettuce

Study identifies two gene families that regulate the development of `simple’ leaves in a plant called Arabidopsis thaliana

October 14, 2021
The Scitech

A new study could help introduce innovations in the food industry as it could help change the shape of the salad leaves as one desires. The new study had shed light on how `simple’ leaves develop in a plant. It has identified two gene families that regulate the development of `simple’ leaves in a plant called Arabidopsis thaliana – a popular model organism in plant biology. These gene families – CIN-TCP and KNOX-II – encode proteins called transcription factors that suppress the formation of new leaflets at the margin, thereby giving rise to `simple’ leaves. The researchers simultaneously suppressed multiple members of the two gene families. This caused the `simple’ leaves to become `super compound’ leaves that gave rise to leaflets indefinitely. However, when they independently suppressed either of the two gene families, the leaves did not turn into compound leaves. This suggests that the genes work in concert. In addition, the mutant leaves continued to stay young and grow for as long as they had the necessary growing conditions. While Arabidopsis leaves typically mature in around 30 days and withers by 60 days, the leaves of these mutant plants with suppressed CIN-TCP and KNOX-II gene families grew for as long as the researchers followed them (175 days) – and could potentially go on for months or years given the necessary conditions.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology (MCB) at the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and their collaborators from Shodhaka Life Sciences, Bengaluru. “While other scientists have been able to convert compound leaves to simple leaves by manipulating the expression of certain genes, our report is the first one to go the other way around,” Utpal Nath, a senior author of the paper, said. The findings could initiate and nurture innovations in the food industry in the long run. Krishna Reddy Challa, a former Ph.D. student at MCB and co-lead author of the study, said, “One could use this technique to alter the shape of the salad leaves as one chooses or increase their biomass. For instance, you could change the shape of a spinach leaf to look like lettuce.” Monalisha Rath, another co-lead author of the study, said “Since the leaves don’t mature once the CIN-TCP and KNOX-II genes are suppressed, you can also control the longevity of the plant and thereby extend its shelf-life”. The research was published in the journal Nature Plants.

Source: India Science Wire