Pineapple genome offers new insights into the drought tolerant plant.
Pineapple, the famous tropical fruit is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. The juicy, sweet fruit is grown in more than 80 countries while Costa Rica, Brazil and Philippines are among the biggest producers of the fruit.
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To learn its evolutionary history and drought tolerant ability, scientists sequenced the genome of pineapple. Pineapple uses a special form of photosynthesis to convert light into chemical energy which ultimately serves as a fuel source to maintain plant’s life on Earth. The special type of photosynthesis, called crassulacean acid metabolism, or CAM, has found in more than 10,000 plant species but it appears that pineapple naturally makes the best use of it. The rest of plants use a different photosynthesis called C3.
Plants with CAM photosynthesis use only 20 percent of water compared to other tropical plants and can grow in dry and unusual environments which are unfavorable for most crop plants.
But what is the thing which enables pineapple to thrive in limited water environment better than any other plant with CAM photosynthesis. Researchers found that it is the plant’s circadian clock which allows it to differentiate day and night and regulates metabolism accordingly.
"This is the first time scientists have found a link between regulatory elements of CAM photosynthesis genes and circadian clock regulation," said plant biology professor Ray Ming from University of Illinois. "This makes sense, because CAM photosynthesis allows plants to close the pores in their leaves during the day and open them at night. This contributes to pineapple's resilience in hot, arid climates, as the plant loses very little moisture through its leaves during the day."
CAM photosynthesis allows a plant to absorb carbon dioxide during the night and release it next day for photosynthesis.
The genome analysis will help develop such plant varieties that are more improved in terms of quality, production as well as resistance against droughts.
"Drought is responsible for the majority of global crop loss, so understanding the mechanisms that plants have evolved to survive water stress is vital for engineering drought tolerance in crop species," the researchers wrote. "CAM plants can keep their stomata closed during the daytime - greatly reducing water loss."
Researchers suggest that all plants contain the necessary genes for CAM photosynthesis. All it requires is to restructure the pre-existing pathways involved in C3 photosynthesis.
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Producing crops that are more tolerant to droughts is especially important in the context of climate change in years to come.