Unlocking aging secrets within leaves

Golgi integrity, COG, and the onset of dark-induced senescence.

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University of California- Riverside scientists recently discovered a plant cell organelle’s key role in aging despite its century-long awareness. Initially studying plant responses to stress, researchers unexpectedly found that this organelle and a related protein dictate a plant’s survival when left in the dark too frequently. The serendipitous discovery, detailed in a Nature Plants article, delighted the research team due to its unexpected nature.

Katie Dehesh, distinguished professor of molecular biochemistry at UCR and co-author of the new article, said, “For us, this finding is a big deal. For the first time, we have defined the profound importance of an organelle in the cell that was not previously implicated in aging.”

The Golgi body, resembling deflated balloons or dropped lasagna, acts as the cell’s post office, sorting and sending molecules to the right places. A damaged Golgi disrupts cell activities, impacting overall health. Like a postal worker, the COG protein oversees the movement of small sac ‘envelopes’ transporting molecules within the cell.

COG helps Golgi with sorting and attaches sugars to proteins or lipids crucial for processes like immune response. To understand COG’s impact, researchers modified plants to lack COG production. Under normal conditions, these plants thrived. Yet, when deprived of light needed for sugar production, the COG-free plants showed signs of dying – yellowing, wrinkling, and thinning leaves.

Choi said, “In the dark, the COG mutants showed signs of aging that typically appear in wild, unmodified plants around day nine. But in the mutants, these signs manifested in just three days.”

COG helps Golgi with sorting and attaches sugars to proteins or lipids crucial for processes like immune response. To understand COG’s impact, researchers modified plants to lack COG production. Under normal conditions, these plants thrived. Yet, when deprived of light needed for sugar production, the COG-free plants showed signs of dying – yellowing, wrinkling, and thinning leaves.

The study advances knowledge about plant aging and presents a unique opportunity to glean insights into the aging process in humans. This research lays the groundwork for future investigations into aging and age-related diseases by uncovering the role of the COG protein and the Golgi body.

Journal reference:

  1. Choi, HS., Bjornson, M., Liang, J. et al. COG-imposed Golgi functional integrity determines the onset of dark-induced senescence. Nature Plants. DOI: 10.1038/s41477-023-01545-3.

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