We are dependent on agriculture to provide food for our growing population, despite declining resources available for fertiliser. Developing crops that are able to use nutrients more efficiently is one way we can ensure food security well into the future. Understanding how plants take up compounds through their roots is essential for engineering crops that use nutrients more efficiently. Passage cells, located on older plant roots, provide a filtering system for plants. These specialised cells have retained their ability to absorb compounds from the environment, unlike most of the surrounding old cells, which are waterproof. Researchers from the EU-funded project THE PLANT ENDODERMIS (The plant endodermis - Unravelling functions of a crucial barrier) have expanded our knowledge of plant filtering systems by studying passage cells and identifying genetic markers for recognising them. Working with a model plant (Arabidopsis thaliana), the researchers identified new genetic markers that can be used to recognise passage cells. They also identified the genetic factors involved in passage cell development. Furthermore, the team used this knowledge to develop a line of Arabidopsis plants that do not express certain genes used by passage cells. This will allow scientists to identify the specific role these genes play in the plant's filtering system. These findings bring us closer to engineering crop plants with improved nutrient uptake, thus allowing for more reliable food production.
Food production, nutrients, engineering crops, passage cells, plant endodermis, genetic markers