Transient VENUS

Image: ‘Crabtree watching the Transit of Venus A.D. 1639’ by Ford Madox Brown; a mural at the Town Hall of Manchester, UK.

Image: ‘Crabtree watch­ing the Transit of Venus A.D. 1639’ by Ford Madox Brown; a mural at the Town Hall of Manchester, UK.

This year’s transit of Venus reminds me – albeit belatedly – to applaud the hard-working bot­an­ists of the Universities of Nottingham (UK), Ghent (Belgium), Leeds (UK) and Lyon (France) who have been explor­ing a more down-to-Earth – and ulti­mately more use­ful? – kind of Venus. Like all good phyto­lo­gists they are inter­ested in under­stand­ing the role of auxin in plant devel­op­ment. In order to get a bet­ter under­stand­ing of auxin bio­logy it is import­ant to identify where it actu­ally works inside plant cells; a tall order, loc­at­ing a tiny molecule in a small cell. Hitherto, a so-called DR5-based pro­tocol was employed to mon­itor auxin dis­tri­bu­tion in planta. However, this reporter activ­ity does not dir­ectly relate to endo­gen­ous auxin abund­ance. Recognising this lim­it­a­tion, Géraldine Brunoud et al. have developed ‘A novel sensor to map auxin response and dis­tri­bu­tion at high spatio-temporal res­ol­u­tion’. The group have engin­eered a new syn­thetic auxin sig­nalling sensor in the model plant Arabidopsis thali­ana using VENUS (a fast-maturing form of yel­low fluor­es­cent pro­tein) fused to the Aux/IAA auxin-interaction domain (termed domain II; DII), hence its name DII-VENUS. Amongst DII-VENUS’ attrib­utes are that its abund­ance is depend­ent on auxin, and it provides a map of rel­at­ive auxin dis­tri­bu­tion at cel­lu­lar res­ol­u­tion in dif­fer­ent tis­sues. As proof of its use­ful­ness, its rapid degrad­a­tion in response to auxin has been exploited to visu­al­ise dynamic changes in cel­lu­lar auxin dis­tri­bu­tion dur­ing two devel­op­mental responses, root grav­it­rop­ism and lat­eral organ pro­duc­tion at the shoot apex. A most pleas­ing sym­metry, celes­tial tran­si­ence mirrored in a more ter­restrial con­text. Fiat lux!

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

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