A Tomato Enzyme Influences Plant Growth, Water Transport, and Drought Resistance

Jenn Hoskins
19th May, 2024

A Tomato Enzyme Influences Plant Growth, Water Transport, and Drought Resistance

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at University Roma Tre studied how manipulating thermospermine (T-Spm) metabolism affects stress tolerance in tomato plants
  • They used CRISPR/Cas9 to create tomato mutants with higher T-Spm levels, leading to changes in growth and xylem structure
  • These mutants showed improved drought tolerance by reducing water loss and vulnerability to embolism, enhancing plant resilience
Polyamines, small organic compounds found in all living cells, play crucial roles in various plant physiological processes. Among them, thermospermine (T-Spm) is particularly significant for plant development, xylem differentiation, and stress tolerance. In Arabidopsis thaliana, five FAD-dependent polyamine oxidases (AtPAO1 to AtPAO5) are responsible for maintaining polyamine balance. AtPAO5, specifically, converts T-Spm back to spermidine, influencing several developmental and stress-related pathways[1]. A recent study by researchers at University Roma Tre has explored whether manipulating T-Spm metabolism could enhance stress tolerance in crops, using tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) as a model system. To investigate the role of T-Spm in stress tolerance, the study identified homologs of AtPAO5 in tomato, namely SlPAO2, SlPAO3, and SlPAO4. Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, the researchers created loss-of-function mutants for SlPAO3, termed slpao3 mutants. These mutants exhibited increased levels of T-Spm, which led to noticeable changes in growth parameters, the number and size of xylem elements, and the expression of genes related to auxin and gibberellin, two important plant hormones. The findings from this study align with previous research indicating that polyamines, including T-Spm, are involved in the regulation of xylem differentiation and growth. For instance, earlier studies have shown that T-Spm antagonizes auxin, a key hormone in xylem differentiation, and that AtPAO5 mutants in Arabidopsis exhibit altered xylem vessel numbers and sizes[2]. The current study extends these findings to tomato, demonstrating that the T-Spm-mediated regulatory mechanisms are conserved across different plant species, albeit with some variations. One of the most significant outcomes of the study is the improved drought tolerance observed in the slpao3 mutants. These mutants showed reduced xylem hydraulic conductivity, which limits water loss and reduces vulnerability to embolism, a condition where air bubbles block water transport in xylem vessels. This adaptation is crucial for plants under drought stress, as it helps maintain water transport efficiency and reduces the risk of dehydration. This observation is consistent with previous findings that plants adapt their xylem structure to cope with water-limiting conditions. For example, under dehydration, potato plants increase the density of smaller xylem vessels to facilitate water transport[3]. The study also highlights the role of polyamines in abiotic stress responses. Previous reviews have emphasized the accumulation of polyamines in plants under various stress conditions, such as drought, salinity, and extreme temperatures. These compounds are known to interact with other stress signaling pathways, enhancing plant resilience[4]. The current research provides further evidence that manipulating polyamine metabolism, specifically T-Spm, can be a viable strategy to improve stress tolerance in crops without adversely affecting growth. In summary, the study conducted by University Roma Tre demonstrates that T-Spm metabolism can be targeted to enhance drought tolerance in tomato plants. By creating slpao3 mutants with elevated T-Spm levels, the researchers showed that these plants exhibit beneficial changes in growth and xylem structure, leading to improved stress resilience. These findings not only confirm the conserved role of T-Spm in plant development and stress responses but also offer a potential pathway for developing more resilient crop varieties in the face of climate change.

AgricultureBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) A Solanum lycopersicum polyamine oxidase contributes to the control of plant growth, xylem differentiation, and drought stress tolerance.

Published 18th May, 2024


Related Studies

2) The Arabidopsis polyamine oxidase/dehydrogenase 5 interferes with cytokinin and auxin signaling pathways to control xylem differentiation.


3) Morphological and physiological responses of the potato stem transport tissues to dehydration stress.


4) Polyamines: Small Amines with Large Effects on Plant Abiotic Stress Tolerance.


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