Join Elsbeth Walker, Ph.D and professor of biology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, for a discussion on "Long-Distance Shoot-to-Root Signaling of Iron Deficiency in Plants."
The Walker lab aims to discover novel mechanisms that control the uptake and distribution of iron in plants. Part of the impetus for such discovery research is that iron deficiency is one of the most significant micronutrient malnutrition problems facing the world today. The World Health Organization estimates that ~1.62 billion people-- ~25 percent of the world’s population --are affected by iron deficiency. The production of staple crops that have elevated iron in edible parts (e.g., in the grains of cereals) is widely regarded as the primary means by which this problem could be stably addressed. However, this goal is thwarted, because our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms controlling iron accumulation in plants is far from complete. We have discovered that three distinct iron-transporter proteins are required in the leaves of plants in order for those leaves to send correct signals of iron deficiency to the roots. Our current work focuses on understanding how the leaf signals of iron deficiency are generated. We are also avidly pursuing the phloem-mobile inductive RNA signal that induces iron-deficiency-associated gene expression in the roots. Our hope is that, by improving our understanding of whole-plant iron-signaling processes, we may identify improved strategies for manipulating iron distribution in staple crop plants.