From the different light-regulated plant development responses, the Group of Light and Shade Regulation of Plant Development at the IBMCP aims to understand how plants respond to vegetation proximity, a type of plant-plant communication. In Arabidopsis thaliana, a sun-loving plant that avoids vegetation proximity and shade, perception of neighboring vegetation results in the activation of a set of responses known as the shade avoidance syndrome (SAS). The most obvious SAS response is the promotion of seedling elongation. After identifying several SAS regulatory components, we established that they are organized in complex transcriptional regulatory networks in which the levels of several components are rapidly altered after plant proximity perception. This network is formed by a broad range of transcription factors and cofactors, as well as specific components of the nuclear pore complex.
We have expanded our research to other plant species closely related to A. thaliana that tolerate (instead of avoid) plant shade, as is the case of Cardamine hirsuta, a species susceptible to be used in genetic approaches. Our comparative analyses between both kind of species has helped us to unravel how nature implements adaptation to plant shade and high planting density. Ultimately, our work will help to better understand how plants communicate to each other, a knowledge that will contribute to make agricultural systems more complex, and hence to transition towards a more sustainable agriculture.