Impacting global food security
Plants lack a nervous system and yet their growth and development are highly coordinated and consistent. Communication within plants is by use of a set of special hormones, small molecules which pass around plant tissues in the sap. Principal amongst these is the hormone auxin and we recognize its activity when, for example, plants bend towards light and roots towards gravity. Auxin is moved around plants to create gradients in its concentration and the plant’s cells then grow according to the strength of the signal. To create these gradients plant cells, use auxin transport proteins and the class of transport protein responsible for auxin uptake is known as the AUX1/LAX class.
This Medical and Life Sciences Research Fund supported project focusses on the archetypical member AUX1. PhD student Chitra Joshi working at Warwick University School of Life Science aims to purify AUX1 and to then find the specific conditions under which it will crystallize. If a protein crystallizes, X-rays are used to help reveal its molecular structure. By determining the structure of AUX1, Chitra will be able to study the details of how it works, to find out how it selects auxin to transport and how it transfers auxin across the cell membrane for uptake. By doing this new agrochemicals to help with food production can be designed to address the urgent need to improve the status of global food security.