Article image

Even plants gain weight if they have too much sugar

If you want to lose weight, you usually start by cutting out excess sugar from your diet. But it turns out that plants also gain weight if they retain too much sugar.

A new study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory discovered methods for enhancing sugar retention in plant leaves to increase oil production, which can be used for the creation of biofuels.

Biofuels are a crucial combatant against rising global temperatures due to CO2 emissions, and finding stable, renewable sources for biofuels will aid in those efforts.

The study was published in the journal Plant Physiology and details how the team increased oil production in plant leaves by limiting the plant’s ability to transport its sugars away from the leaves.

The researchers hypothesized that if the plant retained sugars in the leaves rather than traveling throughout the whole plant, oil production would increase. But they first needed to fully understand the biochemical processes that drive sugar transportation and what genes are responsible.

The results of the study showed that oil production could be increased by reducing sugar transportation and increasing levels of a protein that switches on the genes responsible for oil production.

“Combining genetic mutations that decrease the transport of sugar out of leaves and the conversion of sugars to starch increases sugar levels in leaves. That excess sugar drives increased oil production by stabilizing the oil on-switch, and also by supplying the carbon building blocks needed to make more oil in leaves,” said John Shanklin, a Brookhaven Lab biochemist and leader of the study.

The study also included experiments in breeding plants with mutations that limited the breakdown of plant lipids, which include plant fats, resulting in increased oil production in the leaves.

The results provide further insight into the inner workings the biochemical processes in plants, which can then be used to help further the production of biofuels.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day