q&more
My watch list
my.chemie.de  
Login  

News

Watching changes in plant metabolism – live

Researchers use a new method of in vivo biosensor technology

Copyright: Plant Energy Biology Lab/Janina Steinbeck

Young thale cress seedling (Arabidopsis thaliana) with the fluorescent biosensor in its cells. The false colour image shows the redox status of the NAD pool in the cells and tissue. Rainbow scale from blue (oxidized NAD pool) to red (reduced NAD pool).

17-Aug-2020: Almost all life on Earth, in particular our food and our health, depend on metabolism in plants. In order to understand how these metabolic processes function, researchers at the Institute of the Biology and Biotechnology of Plants at the University of Münster with the participation of the University of Bonn are studying key mechanisms in the regulation of energy metabolism. Now, for the first time, a new method of in vivo biosensor technology has enabled them to monitor in real time what effects environmental changes – for example, light, temperature, aridity, flooding or pest infestation – have on the central metabolism of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress).

Background and methodology

The team of researchers expressed a genetically coded sensor inside the plants in order to make central metabolic process literally ‘visible’. “Because plants appear from the outside to be very static, they have to be superfast masters of flexibility and adaptation within their cells,” says Dr. Janina Steinbeck, lead author of the study. “We’re now able to observe those dynamics live in the living plant.” In order to measure the metabolic process in the plant and produce images of it, the researchers used in vivo biosensoring, a method for studying living organisms, tissue or cells in real time. The biosensor consists of a biological recognition element, a protein which specifically binds a molecule to be detected, and a read-out element, a protein which translates the binding to the recognition element into a light signal. The biosensor now being used was originally developed for use in nerve cells. The researchers refined this sensor and developed it so that it could be used in plants.

The sensor can directly bind and then release the molecules NAD+ and NADH. The so-called NAD redox system is of paramount importance for electron transfer during metabolism in almost all living things. The sensor consists of a fluorescent blue-green protein and a red one, both of which change their brightness depending on the NAD status in the cell. The sensor read-out in living cells is carried out with a modern confocal laser scanning microscope. The possibility of using NAD in vivo sensing in plants opens up new options for plant researchers. “For us, this new method is an achievement regarding the methodology because now we can gain a direct understanding of metabolic processes precisely where they occur in the plant,” explains Prof. Markus Schwarzländer, who heads the Plant Energy Biology working group at the University of Münster. “For example, it was a complete surprise for us to observe that such a key process as NAD metabolism changes so fundamentally during an immune reaction,” he adds.

Up to now, it had only been possible for the researchers to study this type of metabolic processes by obtaining extracts from the plants and analysing them with biochemical methods. In this approach, however, cells and tissue are destroyed, and it is no longer possible to trace where exactly the metabolic changes occurred. Now, the researchers can track dynamic changes in the redox metabolism – which, among other functions, serves to provide energy in the cells – from specific cell compartments, here in the cytosol, in the individual cells, up to complete organs in intact living plants. This approach makes it possible to create a first NAD redox map of the whole plant and to observe redox dynamics in transitions from light to dark as well as changes in the sugar status, cell respiration and oxygen supply. “As a result, it becomes apparent just how directly metabolism and environment are linked,” says Markus Schwarzländer. “What was especially exciting was the new connection to the immune response, which we previously had practically no idea about, and which now needs to be studied in more depth.”

At almost the same time as the publication in The Plant Cell, a study by researchers in Hong Kong was published in Nature Communications. In this study, a different sensor for NAD was expressed inside plants and used to study photosynthesis. The results of both studies support each other. “The information gained through the new method can play a key role in future in cultivating plants which make our food production more sustainable and contribute to alleviating the effects of climate change. A direct early recognition of stress in agricultural crops might also be possible,” says Schwarzländer, with a view to the future.

Original publication:
Steinbeck J, Fuchs P, Negroni YL, Elsässer M, Lichtenauer S, Stockdreher Y, Feitosa-Araujo E, Niemeier JO, Kroll JB, Humberg C, Smith E, Mai M, Nunes-Nesi A, Meyer AJ, Zottini M, Morgan B, Wagner S, Schwarzländer M; "In Vivo NADH/NAD+ Biosensing Reveals the Dynamics of Cytosolic Redox Metabolism in Plants"; Plant Cell; 2020

Facts, background information, dossiers

  • metabolism
  • plants
  • metabolic processes
  • biosensors
  • real-time analyses
  • Arabidopsis thaliana

More about WWU Münster

  • News

    Chemists succeed in synthesis of aminoalcohols by utilizing light

    Whether in beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure or in natural products: So-called vicinal aminoalcohols are high-quality organic compounds that are found in many everyday products. However, their production is difficult. For a long time, chemists are trying to develop efficient method ... more

    Understanding the progress of viral infections

    It is only 120 millionths of a millimetre in size but can bring entire countries to a standstill: the Corona virus. Even if it were to disappear one day, viral infections will still be among the most frequent and difficult-to-treat diseases in humans. Even decades of research have only prod ... more

    Long-standing problem in organic chemistry solved

    They occur in nature, are reactive and play a role in many biological processes: polyenes. It is no wonder that chemists have for a long time been interested in efficiently constructing these compounds – not least in order to be able to use them for future biomedical applications. However, ... more

  • q&more articles

    Expressive

    Coupling biological molecules to surfaces, and using them in this form for measurement procedures, for analysis and in production processes, is a novel approach that is gaining increasing importance in industrial applications. Using established procedures, surfaces and biological molecules ... more

  • Authors

    Prof. Dr. Joachim Jose

    born 1961,studied biology at the University of Saarbrücken, where he was awarded a doctorate. He gained his professorship at the Institute of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry of the University of the Saarland. From 2004 to 2011, he was professor for bioanalytics (C3) at the Heinrich-H ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by:

 

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE