The laboratories of Dr Janneke Balk (JIC) and Professor Hong-Qing Ling (CAS Bejing) will start a collaboration to discover how plants sense iron. Plants are very efficient in taking up iron from the soil, which they need to grow big and strong. It also ends up in fruits and vegetables, from which we obtain our dietary iron.
Plants will only take up as much iron as they need, because an excess of iron in toxic. For this they need to know how much iron there is in the cell, so they can adjust the uptake and usage as required. Currently we do not know how the level of iron is sensed, and how this information is conveyed to regulatory mechanisms. Both labs have several mutant lines in the model species Arabidopsis that appear to have a defect in regulating the amount of iron, which may be due to an inability to sense iron. We will test this using a number of molecular tools that each lab has available.