Stress is the number one reason why students underperform and get depressed; as a college student, I can definitely attest to the negative effects of stress that I feel, especially during midterms. Sometimes, the pressure of too many things on my plate can push me to be productive, but when I feel as though there is nothing more to be done and there is no way for me to achieve a better state of mind, I just give up. I feel sick and nauseous, and I just want to run away from the world. And the worst feeling of all is when I can’t run away, when I can’t walk out and come back in a few minutes, when I am in a stressful situation and have to suffer my way through it, hoping that I’ll survive.
A lot of times, we only associate stress with an emotional state, forgetting its physical attributes. This mindset also explains why we never think of plants ever facing stress. But once you are able to think of stress as having physical factors and attributes, you can realize that plants can get stuck in even worse situations, because they are never able to run away!
Fortunately, however, plants do have innate protection systems that respond to different stresses and prevent the plant from dying. However, these systems usually come with a cost, often decreasing plant growth. Stephen Howell, professor of genetics, development, and cell biology from Iowa State University, recently published a study that determines how the plant Arabidopsis responds to heat stress.
According to the research, when the environment is very hot, several proteins in the plant do not fold correctly. Structure defines function in the case of proteins, and thus, when they do not fold correctly, it inherently means that they are unable to function correctly. When mis-folded or unfolded proteins are recognized by sensor exonucleus factors within the cells, molecular related transcription factors travel to the nucleus and activate genes to guide the folding process for the proteins.
As can be guessed, this process takes time and energy, thus inhibiting the growth of the plant while it is occurring. According to Howell, this study can be used to figure out how to allow the plant to grow while facilitating the refolding process for proteins. This information can definitely incite further research to figure out a solution that will allow plants to grow better in stressful situations.
Discussion question: Why would growth be prevented during this process?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330102833.htm
Research Article: http://www.plantcell.org/cgi/rapidpdf/tpc.109.072173v1
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