For some plants, stress can actually help, rather than hurt, their chances of survival. By observing the effects of herbivorous stressors on Arbidopsis thaliana, a type of mustard plant, researchers at the University of Illinois have found a positive correlation between adverse conditions such as herbivory and plant’s growth and reproduction.
At the start of its life, each mustard plant inherits five chromosomes from each parent for a total of ten chromosomes. Through a process known as endoreduplication, the cells of the plant can create new copies of their chromosomes without going through mitosis. After multiple rounds of endoreduplication, the researchers found some cells contained as many as 320 chromosomes.
The researchers cultivated and examined two different types of mustard plants—Columbia and Landsberg erecta. They mimicked herbivory in the laboratory by clipping the plants and then observed the plants’ responses to the stress of being “eaten” or grazed.
Columbia responded by accelerating endoreduplication. As a result, Columbia that were clipped grew larger and even yielded as much as three times more seeds than those that were not clipped.
Landsberg, on the other hand, did not respond to the simulated grazing with accelerated endoreduplication. The clipped Landsberg plants thus fared worse than those that were unclipped.
Discussion Question: Why might some plants not have evolved the ability to undergo endoreduplication? Under what conditions might the lack of endoreduplication be advantageous?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110801094715.htm
Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:White-tailed_deer_(Odocoileus_virginianus)_grazing_-_20050809.jpg
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