How a plant resists drought
One potential way to protect crops is by spraying them with a compound that induces the plants to become more drought resistant.
Now, by identifying the key molecular mechanism that enables a plant to minimize water loss, researchers may be one step closer to that goal.
They produce a hormone, called abscisic acid, or ABA, that binds to a protein, called a PYL receptor, triggering a chain of reactions that eventually closes the plant’s pores on its leaves.
The key is the ABA hormone.
But the details for how ABA works have been elusive.
Experimental techniques such as X-ray diffraction can take snapshots of the hormone before and after binding to the PYL receptor, but they can’t catch the two in the act.
Using molecular dynamic simulations, the researchers have, for the first time, revealed the molecular details for how ABA binds with the PYL receptor.
For PYL receptors whose crystal structures are known, their binding pocket — the part of the protein that binds to ABA — is the same.
While researchers may still want to confirm this mechanism in other plants, such as rice — whose PYL receptor structure is known — the hunt for an ABA mimic can now begin, Shukla said.
The goal is to find a compound that can work on all species without resorting to genetic engineering.