Plant underground communication is discovered

February 4, 2022

Signaling between plant ramets connected via rhizomes

A research group of Nagoya University in collaboration with Shimane University, Niigata University, the University of Tokyo, and RIKEN CSRS found a new mechanism of a wild rice species which reproduces by rhizomes to regulate growth and metabolism in response to heterogeneous nitrogen availability through communication between the ramets.

Some plant species such as bamboos and turfgrasses propagate not through seeds but by branching and elongating rhizomes. In a colony of such plants, multiple growing ramets are connected underground by rhizomes. Little has been known, however, about the precise mechanism of this inter-ramet communication through rhizomes.

This study revealed how the ramets of a wild rice species, Oryza longistaminata, which reproduces vegetatively respond ably as a colony when they are exposed to the conditions with heterogeneous nitrogen availability; the nitrogen-sufficient ramets upon receiving a signal from nitrogen-deficient ramets complementarily absorb and assimilate nitrogen to prioritize their own growth.

This finding elucidated a part of plant behaviors to survive under complex environments, and can be applied to improve the productivity of plant biomass.

Original article
Plant Physiology doi:10.1093/plphys/kiac025
M. Kawai, R. Tabata, M. Ohashi, H. Honda, T. Kamiya, M. Kojima, Y. Takebayashi, S. Oishi, S. Okamoto, T. Hachiya, H. Sakakibara,
"Regulation of ammonium acquisition and use in Oryza longistaminata ramets under nitrogen source heterogeneity".
Mikiko Kojima
Expert Technician
Mass Spectrometry and Microscopy Unit