Inside leaves, communication is the key.

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Scientists from the Centre have recently published their findings in the journal Plant Cell. Read full article here. This project is the result of student Florence Danila’s PhD investigation.  “My project’s main focus is to compare photosynthesis transport mechanisms in C3 and C4 crops,” she says.

C3 and C4 pathways are two biochemical processes by which plants fix carbon through the process of photosynthesis. Plants that use C4 mechanisms include maize and sorghum, while rice and wheat use the less efficient C3 pathway.

Florence describes plamodesmata as “similar to city highways inside the leaf”, and her results show that they are an important aspect of differentiation between C3 and C4 photosynthetic pathways.

PhD student Florance Danila. Credit: Charles Tambiah/CoETP

PhD student Florance Danila. Credit: Charles Tambiah/CoETP

Until now, plasmodesmata have been extremely difficult to quantify accurately, as they are very small: it is possible to fit more than 25,000 plasmodesmata in the diameter of a human hair.

Florence’s combined scanning electron microscopy and 3D immunolocalisation by confocal microscopy, and the methodology has proven to be a successful way to quantify these elusive structures.

In this publication, the scientists report that C4 leaves have up to nine-fold higher plasmodesmata density at the interface between the two layers of the leaf than C3 leaves, which could explain C4 plants’ higher photosynthetic efficiency.

Other authors of the publication include Florence’s supervisors Robert Furbank and Susanne von Caemmerer, from ANU, Rosemary White from CSIRO and Paul Quick from IRRI, making her project a clear example of the Centre’s promotion of close collaborations between multiple institutions.