When and how to die - JXB Special issue on Plant Senescence

15 Feb 2018 - By: Jonathan Ingram

When and how to die


By Jonathan Ingram, Journal of Experimental Botany

Every year, autumn or fall brings plant senescence to us in spectacular fashion: changing leaf colour, then leaves shed and bare branches. Where seasonal change is more subtle, nevertheless the demise of leaves is always around even as new growth emerges. Beneath this, underlying metabolic change in dying leaves and redistribution of nutrients is fundamental to survival. But we still don’t know how plants ‘know’ when and how to die. This open question is at the heart of the latest special issue from Journal of Experimental Botany, introduced by editors Hye Ryun Woo, Céline Masclaux-Daubresse and Pyung Ok Lim.

Special Issue Editorial: Plant senescence: how plants know when and how to die


Special Issue: Plant senescence


In their editorial, the editors frame senescence as an evolutionarily acquired developmental strategy which provides optimal fitness. They also emphasise systems approaches and the way that multi-omics datasets are needed to take forward our understanding of the regulatory networks involved:

‘Plant senescence constitutes a part of the overall developmental program, in which multiple internal and external signals are integrated into information about developmental age through intricate regulatory pathways … integrative analyses which allow an assessment of the dynamic changes that occur in physiological, biochemical and molecular phenotypes are required for a systems understanding of its underlying mechanistic principles.’

Each review provides a fascinating and detailed insight into a key research theme in the field, particularly in leaves but also petals, including abscission, and the way that different groups are bearing down on immense complexity. Topics span dynamic regulation and coordination, including diverse transcription factors, epigenetic and post-transcriptional regulation, the degradation of chloroplast components and chlorophyll itself. Implications for crop improvement are also considered, and these are far-reaching.

There are also some excellent research contributions, taking forward themes elaborated on elsewhere. Clément et al. handle a very large amount of data which provides new insights into metabolomics in specific leaf tissues – lamina and veins – of oilseed rape. Also with work that is directly relevant to agricultural improvement, the work by Sade et al. on CHLOROPLAST VESICULATION (CV) gene function demonstrates that a delay in chloroplast turnover increases nitrogen assimilation and water-deficit stress tolerance in rice.

Read more 

Journal of Experimental Botany publishes an exciting mix of research, review and comment on fundamental questions of broad interest in plant science. Regular special issues highlight key areas.


Author: Jonathan Ingram
Category: Plant Biology
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Jonathan Ingram

Jonathan Ingram is Senior Commissioning Editor/ Science Writer for Journal of Experimental Botany. Jonathan moved from lab research into publishing and communications with the launch of Trends in Plant Science in 1995, then going on to New Phytologist and, in the third sector, Age UK and Mind.