A molecular map for plant sciences

Plants are essential for life on earth. They provide food for essentially all organisms, oxygen for breathing, and they regulate the climate of the planet. Proteins play a key role in controlling all aspects of life including plants. Under the leadership of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), a team of scientists has now mapped around 18,000 of all the proteins found in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Every cell of any organism contains the complete genetic information, or the “blueprint”, of a living being, encoded in the sequence of the so-called nucleotide building blocks of DNA. But how does a plant create tissues as diverse as a leaf that converts light into chemical energy and produces oxygen, or a root that absorbs nutrients from the soil?

The answer lies in the protein pattern of the cells of the respective tissue. Proteins are the main molecular players in every cell. They are biocatalysts, transmit signals inside and between cells, form the structure of a cell and much more.

“To form the protein pattern, it is not only important which proteins are present in a tissue, but, more importantly, in what quantities,” explains Bernhard Kuster, Professor of Proteomics and Bioanalytics at TUM. For example, proteins of the photosynthesis machinery are found primarily in leaves, but also in seeds, yet at a thousand times lower levels.

Laboratory plants as a model for basic research

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