During their life, plants constantly renew themselves. They sprout new leaves in the spring and shed them in the fall. No longer needed, damaged or dead organs such as blossoms and leaves are also cast off by a process known as abscission. By doing so, plants conserve energy and prepare for the next step in their life cycle.
But how does a plant know when it is the right time to get rid of unnecessary organs? It is regulated by receptor proteins located at the surface of specific cells that form a layer around the future break point. When it is time to shed an organ, a small hormone binds to this membrane receptor and, together with a helper protein, the abscission process is initiated. Their findings are now published in the journal eLife.