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J Vis Exp. 2015 Nov 30;(105). doi: 10.3791/53286.

Geomagnetic Field (Gmf) and Plant Evolution: Investigating the Effects of Gmf Reversal on Arabidopsis thaliana Development and Gene Expression.

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Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin.
Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital.
Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin;


One of the most stimulating observations in plant evolution is a correlation between the occurrence of geomagnetic field (GMF) reversals (or excursions) and the moment of the radiation of Angiosperms. This led to the hypothesis that alterations in GMF polarity may play a role in plant evolution. Here, we describe a method to test this hypothesis by exposing Arabidopsis thaliana to artificially reversed GMF conditions. We used a three-axis magnetometer and the collected data were used to calculate the magnitude of the GMF. Three DC power supplies were connected to three Helmholtz coil pairs and were controlled by a computer to alter the GMF conditions. Plants grown in Petri plates were exposed to both normal and reversed GMF conditions. Sham exposure experiments were also performed. Exposed plants were photographed during the experiment and images were analyzed to calculate root length and leaf areas. Arabidopsis total RNA was extracted and Quantitative Real Time-PCR (qPCR) analyses were performed on gene expression of CRUCIFERIN 3 (CRU3), copper transport protein1 (COTP1), Redox Responsive Transcription Factor1 (RRTF1), Fe Superoxide Dismutase 1, (FSD1), Catalase3 (CAT3), Thylakoidal Ascorbate Peroxidase (TAPX), a cytosolic Ascorbate Peroxidase1 (APX1), and NADPH/respiratory burst oxidase protein D (RbohD). Four different reference genes were analysed to normalize the results of the qPCR. The best of the four genes was selected and the most stable gene for normalization was used. Our data show for the first time that reversing the GMF polarity using triaxial coils has significant effects on plant growth and gene expression. This supports the hypothesis that GMF reversal contributes to inducing changes in plant development that might justify a higher selective pressure, eventually leading to plant evolution.

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