Messenger RNA in Plants

Messenger RNA in Plants

Have you ever thought about how plants know where, when, and how to grow? Research funded by the National Science Foundation found that plants have messages packaged into their RNA. They send messenger RNA (mRNA) from cell to cell to coordinate their growth. How do the mRNA molecules know where to go and how to get there? They have an escort to guide them.

This all looks pretty complicated, and it is. The escort for the mRNA is a protein called AtRRP44a. Without this escort to guide the messenger RNA between the cells, the cells can’t coordinate their growth, and the plant can’t develop properly. This cell-to-cell communication allows the plant to have all the information it needs to grow successfully in a changing environment.

Rigid walls surround plant cells, so how can the messenger RNA go from cell to cell? The mRNA, escorted by AtRRP44a proteins, can cross the barriers through tiny holes called plasmodesmata. The plasmodesmata are nanochannels that allow RNA and proteins, hormones, ions, and nutrients to pass from cell to cell.

Dr. David Jackson, who headed up this research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, says, “…plants are very sophisticated. We think of them just sitting in their environment, not moving, but they’re processing a lot of information. The different parts of the plants are talking to each other, sharing whether they have a pathogen attack or if they need some nutrients.”

Have you ever wondered how plants know when to shoot up in the spring, how to not shoot up in the fall, and how to handle infestations by insects and fungus? The creation of plants with this highly sophisticated communication system of messenger RNA and escort proteins is difficult to comprehend.

The more we understand of the creation, the more we see God’s wisdom and sophisticated handiwork. These design features are not accidents but the product of incredible intelligence and creativity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Science Foundation and the journal Science.