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A balancing act: fine tuning the production of plant cell membranes

Confocal microscopy image of plant cells

Plant cells regulate the rate of membrane production by altering their chemical composition

Scientists from Rothamsted Research , who are strategically funded by the BBSRC, have discovered a mechanism that allows plant cells to regulate the rate at which they produce membranes. The work is published in the journal The Plant Cell.

Membranes are the building blocks of cells, which in turn are the building blocks of life. For cells to function the quantity and composition of their membranes must be tightly regulated. Quite how plant cells achieve this feat is poorly understood. The study, using the model plant Arabidopsis, shows that plant cells control membrane production by changing the chemical composition of their membranes. This change in composition is then sensed by the plant as it seeks to maintain a condition of balance within its internal environment (called a ‘homeostatic’ mechanism) and it responds by altering the rate at which membrane is produced.

Dr Peter Eastmond who led the research said: “It’s extremely important for plants to maintain and adapt their cellular membrane systems in response to developmental and environmental cues. Our discovery that plant cells induce changes in the lipid composition of their membranes to control the rate at which they produce more membranes is an important step in helping us unravel how membrane production is coordinated with basic processes that demand new membrane such as cell division and expansion”.

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About Rothamsted Research

We are the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for over 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.

Our strength lies in the integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant, insect and soil science.

Rothamsted Research is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2013-2014 Rothamsted Researched received a total of £32.9M from the BBSRC.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes