. Scientific Frontline: Zinnia Elegans will Help Strengthen Plants

Friday, May 12, 2023

Zinnia Elegans will Help Strengthen Plants

Zinnia is one of the most common flower crops.
Photo Credit: Jeana Bala

Biologists at Ural Federal University and Inner Mongolia University (Hohhot, China) have identified a group of genes that are responsible for the strength of the stem in dicotyledonous plants. The results of the study are described in the journal Horticulturae, and will be useful for agriculture. 

"During plant development, specific changes occur at the level of cells, tissues, whole organs, as well as in metabolism and physiological processes. All these changes are controlled at the genetic level and by environmental conditions. These changes lead to the formation of anatomo-morphological structures that ensure the effective fulfillment of the main functions of the stem - water, mineral and photosynthetic transport, and maintenance of the shoot in an upright position. These processes are connected with deposition of lingin in cell walls of vessels and fibers. There is no lingin in the cells of the bark or in the center of the stem", - explains Anastasia Tugbaeva, co-author of the study, Junior Researcher at the UrFU Research Laboratory "Biotechnology of Components Maintenance and Restoration of Natural and Transformed Biosystems".

Scientists have followed the process of lignification (wood growth) throughout the stem, i.e. at different stages of ontogenesis, at different physiological ages of the plant. This is important because the plant has a different phenolic composition at different stages of its life.

"Before us, the lignification process was mainly studied in monocotyledons - cereals: we looked at their resistance to lodging. But we came from the other side and looked at which genes are responsible for the "strength" of the stem. We were able to determine the type of genes responsible for woodiness, how the expression of these genes and the content of phenolic compounds change at different stages of the plant's life," explains Alexander Ermoshin, Associate Professor of the Department of Experimental Biology and Biotechnologies at the Ural Federal University.

Biologists conducted experiments on the Zinnia elegans plant. The information obtained by scientists is very useful in practice. As it turned out, this flower can be extrapolated to agricultural crops - the Compositae, the Cruciferae and the Solanaceae. For example, agronomists will be able to grow sunflowers and tomatoes with a strong stem.

In addition, biologists have found that the diversity of phenolic compounds (hydroxycinnamic acids) and their number increases before the beginning of lignification and decreases at the end. This means that before lignification begins, there are more phenolic compounds and they are more diverse. The knowledge of these characteristics of dicotyledonous plants makes it possible to extract (isolate) these phenolic compounds from plant stems and to use them in the medical field (to produce food supplements with antioxidant properties and to slow down the aging process) or in cosmetology (they are used in skin toning creams).

The scientists plan to study how stress factors (drought, temperature changes, lack of mineral nutrients, etc.) affect the lignification process and whether the plant is more resistant under stressful conditions or the opposite.

Reference: Zinnia Elegans is an annual dicotyledonous plant (Asteraceae). Along with Petunia, it is one of the most common flower crops: it is popular in both urban and rural areas. It is one of the ten most common summer plants in the world. For example, Zinnia is very popular in the USA (where most modern species of Zinnia have been bred).

Phenolic compounds are the major antioxidants of plant origin. Oxidative processes in the human body result in excessive formation of free radicals, which destroy proteins, DNA, lipids and other biologically active compounds, leading to premature aging and ultimately shortened life expectancy. Phenolic compounds protect the human body from oxidative stress. These compounds also activate the synthesis of antioxidant enzymes in our body, protecting against epidemic, cardiovascular, cancer and senile dementia.

Funding: The work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (Project no. 22-24-00817).

Published in journalHorticulturae

Source/CreditUral Federal University

Reference Number: bio051223_01

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