The cycle of light: Analyzing how cellular proteins in leaves change through day, night

Because next-generation biofuels will depend on the growth and hardiness of woody feedstocks, scientists have sought to better understand how leaf cells quickly respond to environmental cues such as light, temperature and water. These rapid responses take the form of “post-translational modifications” that occur when a plant cell chemically modifies a protein to alter its function within seconds.

Scientists at the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, or CBI, have studied this phenomenon in leaves from poplar trees during normal daily cycles of daylight and darkness. Until now, the effect of these modifications at the cellular protein level was not well understood, partly because of the technical limitations of the analytical tools available.

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