How vitamin E works in plants in extreme environments

Vitamin E in plants
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New research from the University of Barcelona has shed some light on how vitamin E works in plants that are living under extreme environmental conditions.

The antioxidant vitamin E, could act as a sentinel in plants, sending molecular signals from the plant’s chloroplasts to their nucleus. According to the study published by Sergi Munné-Bosch and Paula Muñoz, from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona, the flow of information reaching the cell’s nucleus is a molecular mechanism that would ease the adaptive response of plants in physiological stress situations.

Vitamin E gathers a group of molecules, tocopherols and tocotrienols, synthesised by photosynthetic organisms and a fundamental role in the plant and animal metabolism. These molecules differ from each other in their distribution and location, while tocopherols are distributed globally, tocotrienols are only seen in some plant organs.

This new study highlights the biological role of vitamin E in the process of cell communication that goes from the chloroplast to the cell nucleus. “The role of vitamin E would be to send signals from the chloroplast to the nucleus to make a cell reprogramming at a molecular scale and unchain proper responses to several stress situations. This flow of information going to the cell nucleus would be determining to regulate key aspects of the development in plants, such as senescence of organs (leaves, flowers), or ripening of fruits”, notes Sergi Munné-Bosch, lecturer at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and ICREA Academia.

“This is a biologically important route in the plant field, and as a result, a chemical compound is created: phytol. It would finally enable obtaining the phytyl without participation of methylerythritol phosphate”, note the authors of the study.

“We know little about how this alternative biosynthetic route is regulated, but we know it acts in stress situations and senescence related to an active degradation of chlorophyll”, notes Sergi Munné Bosch, head of the Research Group ANTIOX of the UB.


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