• Laith Sharba

Have You Ever Wondered How Plants Breathe? The University of Sheffield Answered Your Questions

Botanists made a huge discovery about air channels network created by plants in their leaves to reach the CO2 in the plant's cells.


Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

Since the 19th century, the scientists knew about the leaves pores and they called it stomata, it has a complex air channel network. but they didn't understand how these channels located in the right place to work on providing CO2 to the other plant's cells.

Recently research published in Nature Communications by Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, they used a genetic manipulation technology to discover more airspace means more stomata a leaf have. the channel's job is to carry the air to the exchange surface like bronchioles in humans and animals lungs.

Scientists study showed the shape and scale of the air channel network by following the CO2 movement through the stomata. This study resulted from a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and Lancaster University.

This research presents a big step in understanding the internal structure of the leaf and how its development related to its tissue functions.

This research makes us understand why old generations bred wheat plants with few pores in its leaves which mean fewer air channels makes plants more drought-resistant.

According to this study now scientists can make crops like wheat more water efficient because they can make changes in the internal structure of its leaves. this method worked for other scientists from Institute for Sustainable Food who developed crops of rice and wheat can adapt the climate conditions like extreme drought.

How plants create their air channels? this question was mysterious to the botanies said Dr. Andrew Fleming a professor at the Institute for Sustainable Food.


This discovery allows scientists to see the movement of air through leaves and tell them what happen inside the leaf which has modulation for the way they think about plants evolution.

The undeniable fact that humans have already unknowingly influenced the manner plants to breathe by breeding wheat that uses less water suggests scientists might target these air channel networks to develop crops that may survive a lot of extreme droughts they expect to visualize with climate breakdown.

Dr. Marjorie Lundgren said a long time ago scientists suspected the stomata and air spaces development in the leaf are harmonious they didn't know which lead to another.

The collaborative team used a clever set of experiments involving X-ray CT image analyses, they answered questions by testing different leaf structure. While they show that the development of stomata starts the expansion of air spaces, they took it one step further to show that the stomata actually need to be exchanging gases in order for the air spaces to expand.

The Hounsfield Facility at the University of Nottingham managed the X-ray imaging work. The X-ray CT, or CAT scanning applications used in botany to visualize the roots as the hidden parts growing in the ground and it is the first time scientists used these applications on leaves, said Professor Sacha Mooney the director of the facility.

The collaborating work allowed them to develop a visualizing technique of the cellular structure, now they can see a 3D leaf with its complex air spaces networks.



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