New study may help to make spinach leaves look like lettuce

A new study could help introduce innovations in the food industry as it could help change the shape of the salad leaves as one desires.

Plants have either ‘simple’ or ‘compound’ leaves. A mango tree, for example, is considered to possess ‘simple’ leaves because they have a single, intact leaf blade. A Gulmohar tree, on the other hand, has ‘compound’ leaves where the leaf blade is dissected into multiple leaflets. Both types of leaves start out as rod-like structures budding out from the meristem, the tip of the stem where stem cells are present. But, they take different shapes as they grow. The question as to how this happens has been a subject of much investigation.

The new study was conducted to help unscramble the puzzle. It has shed light on how `simple’ leaves develop in a plant. It has identified two gene families that regulate the development of `simple’ leaves in a plant called Arabidopsis thaliana – a popular model organism in plant biology. These gene families – CIN-TCP and KNOX-II – encode proteins called transcription factors that suppress the formation of new leaflets at the margin, thereby giving rise to `simple’ leaves.

“While other scientists have been able to convert compound leaves to simple leaves by manipulating the expression of certain genes, our report is the first one to go the other way around,” Utpal Nath, Associate Professor at MCB and senior author of the paper, said.

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