CSUN plant biologists study lentil plants’ response to life underwater

A young lentil plant in soil (Wikimedia Commons)

Crop plants face stress from environmental extremes — not just heat, but also cold; and not just lack of water, but also too much. In a new paper published in the journal Plant Stress, CSUN biologists describe the molecular physiological responses of lentil plants to flooding.

The project, led by M.Sci. alum Bhiolina Baradwaj, with undergraduate researcher (now M.Sci. student) Avetis Mishegyan, their mentor Professor of Biology Chhandak Basu, and collaborators from UC Irvine and Fort Valley State University in Georgia, compared micro-morphology, gene expression, and volatile compound production in lentil plants stressed by flooding and control plants maintained in normal growing conditions. Flooding “drowns” land plants by creating anoxic conditions around underwater tissues, and this stress can ultimately kill the plants. The team identified evidence of adaptive response to the flooding treatment, such as accumulation of water-repellant wax on the leaves — but they also saw decreased production of volatile emissions, lower chlorophyll content, and lower activity by the antioxidant catalase, all signs of faltering metabolic activity in the flooded plants.