Study provides vital information on how plants manage stress

Recent research carried out at the University of Seville and headed by scientist Emilio Gutiérrez, from the Department of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, offers new information to comprehend how plants handle stressful situations.


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The plants’ capability to acclimatize to various adverse conditions ascertains their survival to a greater extent. Hence, deeper knowledge of their response and how they cope with stressful conditions is vital to designing biotechnological approaches to reduce economic losses in agriculture created by an ever-changing climate.

While analyzing at the cellular level, it can be seen that one of the initial events that take place following the perception of the stress signal is the development of cytoplasmic complexes made of RNA and proteins called stress granules. The development of these complexes arises as a defense mechanism to enhance cell survival.

Even though the role played by stress granules is highly investigated in mammals, but their function in plants is still not known. An article published in 2015 in The Plant Cell journal identified that the TSN protein functions as a connector between stress granule assembly and plant resistance. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanism by which the TSN protein carries out this function is not known.

US researcher Emilio Gutiérrez recently identified that TSN works as a scaffolding protein by employing, through a greatly disordered region, many protein components—including proteins earlier localized in stress granules in other research models. Moreover, the research revealed that TSN’s scaffolding role is vital to the architecture and function of stress granules.

Amongst the plant-specific components pinpointed was SnRK1 kinase, a central sensor in the cellular response to nutritional and environmental stresses. The research revealed that both the localization of SnRK1 in stress granules and its interaction with TSN is vital for its activation.

The activation of SnRK1 can induce the molecular response processes to the imposed stress situation, enabling cell survival and thereby the survival of the organism itself. The study for the first time demonstrates how stress granule development interferes with SnRK1-induced signaling, one of the widely investigated cellular pathways in eukaryotes.

The current research received funding from the European Research Council (Marie Curie programme Individual fellowships), from the Ministry of Science and Innovation (Juan de la Cierva programme Incorporation), and the University of Seville’s own research plan, and epitomizes the start of a new line of study headed by Professor Emilio Gutiérrez Beltrán, funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation recently.

Journal reference:

Gutierrez-Beltran, E., et al. (2021) Tudor staphylococcal nuclease is a docking platform for stress granule components and is essential for SnRK1 activation in Arabidopsis. The EMBO Journal.


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