We definitely take for granted the fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. When we think of corn, we think of large, yellow ears full of juicy kernels. Apples can grow larger than an adult human fist. And broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale are all the same plant. How did we do it? How did we manage to create such juicy, edible plants? First, it was through selective breeding. And later, we used model organisms such as arabidopsis to learn more about plant genetics.
Two organisms come to mind when people bring up genetics: peas and drosophila (the fruit fly). But arabidopsis has also played a crucial role in plant research. It’s clearly not as popular as peas, despite over 54,000 research papers on it in the past 50 years. But scientists realized that its small genome size, short reproductive cycle, fast life cycle, high seed production, and cross-breed ability made it an excellent model organism.
Genes to Plant Immune Systems
Research on arabidopsis covers the following fields:
- Plant cell biology
- Plant immune system
- Plant hormones
- Signaling responses to abiotic stresses
- Cell transport proteins
- Gene regulatory networks
- Genetic engineering
It’s incredible the amount of information scientists were able to glean from this one little plant. For example, did you know that the first intracellular immune system receptors were isolated from the arabidopsis? Did you also know that a superfamily of proteins that help stop infections in plants was also discovered in this model organism? And scientists now know so much more about how plants respond to drought, poor soil conditions, saltwater, increased atmospheric CO2, and pollution.
Arabidopsis and Climate Change
One of the biggest concerns regarding climate change is the threat of droughts. Droughts lead to low crop production, which leads to food shortages. From there, it’s just a downward spiral into mass migrations and starving people. However, by cracking open the secrets of plant genetics, scientists hope to use genetic engineering to help us hold on. At the same time, other researchers can continue to develop ways to alleviate the effects of climate change. This is why we decided to feature our arabidopsis necklace this week. This humble plant is a reminder that not all significant discoveries have to come from exotic creatures. Purchase this piece for yourself today. It also makes a great gift for botanists, geneticists, agriculturalists, and budding horticulturalists.
written by Science with Evie