Area of Study Overview

Title of Research Project:
Integrative system of autonomous environmental signal recognition and memorization for plant plasticity

Regional Representative:Toshinori Kinoshita
Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) & Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University

Purpose of the Research Project

In contrast to mobile animals which seek environments suitable for survival, in order to respond rapidly to diverse environmental changes, immobile plants have evolved an “autonomous distributed environmental response control system” to control incoming signals via a systemic information transmission system while carrying out an autonomous environmental response, the control of which is distributed by groups of cells and tissues. For this type of control via autonomous distribution, in addition to local stimulus receptor sites and an autonomous response system, there ought to exist a system for the spatiotemporal integration of the local response. However, these molecular species are virtually undescribed. In addition, while it is well known that plants possess systems for the long term memory of seasonal changes such as aridity and temperature changes, many aspects concerning their concrete location and structure are unknown. Within this area of research, in addition to clarification of local and autonomous environmental response systems, by elucidation of the environmental memory system which relies on chromatin modification for the spatiotemporal caching of information, and long distance signal transmission systems completely unlike those found in animals, we aim to clarify our current understanding of plants’ dynamic environmental response control systems.

Content of the Research Project

In this area of research, researchers concentrating in the many diverse fields of plant science, by promoting the integration of hereto considered distinct areas of research such as “local and autonomous responses”, “long distance signaling”, and “environmental memory” in a coordinated manner, will be able to clarify our current understanding of the dynamic environmental response control system as a whole. In particular, it is thought that reconsideration of the system of fibrovascular bundles (merely regarded in textbooks as the organ which transports water and nutrients) in regards to environmental signals as the site of long distance signal transmission, could overturn conventional concepts regarding plant signal transmission. In addition, as plants lack brains, we believe that analysis of DNA, histone modifications, and changes in the dynamic state of chromatin within the nucleus (referred to as epigenetic regulation) will provide evidence that plants are endowed with distributed memory control systems which respond to environmental stimuli. In this way, by understanding, at one end, the varied information control systems employed throughout a plant’s life, we may be able to provide an answer, at the other end of the spectrum, to questions regarding the fundamental life principles of how living organisms process external information.

Expected Research Achievements and Scientific Significance

Hereto, a group that has researched plant environmental responses from the aspect of long distance signaling transmission and memory data processing systems is internationally unprecedented, and we hope that our area of research, which has greatly advanced the environmental response research field as an innovative field of research, will also strengthen our contribution to our nation’s exceptional rise in scientific standards. In addition, through the establishment of both collaborative research positions at John Innes Centre・the Sainsbury Laboratory (UK) and Stanford University (USA) where cutting-edge plant research is being promoted, and a close-knit international research network, we hope that our area of research will help to usher forth a new tide of global research. Furthermore, we anticipate that using the knowledge gained from the studies conducted in this area of research as a foundation, artificial control and improvement of plant environmental response functions may be possible, and we hope that through, for instance, the creation of plants able to withstand global environmental changes, we may be able to contribute to the establishment of fundamental technologies leading to the development of a low carbon-footprint society and increased food production.