Changing of the guard: Research sheds light on how plants breathe

New research is set to change the textbook understanding of how plants breathe.

Previous explanations of how plants take up carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen have focussed on thickening of the inner walls of guard cells. These cells control the stomata -- tiny pores which plants use for gas exchange, water regulation and pathogen defence.

In research published in Plant Journal, a team led by Professor Richard Morris from the John Innes Centre, Norwich, Professor Silke Robatzek of The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, and collaborators from the University of Madrid, developed the first full 3D model of a guard cell.

Using a 3D simulation, they discovered three ingredients were necessary for guard cells to work effectively.

Firstly, the level of water or turgor pressure inside the cell, secondly the elasticity of the cell wall, thirdly it's kidney shaped geometry that converts pressure into shape changes.

Professor Richard Morris said, "This work could help us to understand how to make plants more climate resilient."

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