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Lorenzo’s oil works for plants too


Scientists at Long Ashton Research Station have identified a gene with a pivotal role in regulating seed germination. According to an article published in the January issue of BBSRC business, the Arabidopsis COMATOSE (CTS) gene, is vital for breaking seed dormancy. It is also analogous to the human X-ALD gene, which featured in the 1992 film "Lorenzo’s oil". Treatment of cts mutants with a plant version of Lorenzo’s oil cures their inability to germinate.

The researchers were investigating the genetic control of germination, a key transition in the life of a plant. Once they had cloned the CTS gene, they realised that is analogous to the human adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) gene, mutation of which results in the build-up of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) and ALD disease. Like human ALD sufferers, cts mutant seeds suffer from a variety of effects including inappropriate accumulation of VLCFAs. They are also unable to germinate. Lorenzo’s oil was developed by Augusto Odone for his son, who is an ALD sufferer, and was recently proven effective for the treatment of pre-symptomatic ALD patients. "We wondered whether Lorenzo’s oil would work for plants too" says team leader, Dr Mike Holdsworth. Sure enough, when he treated cts mutant seeds with a similar mixture of oils, the seeds became able to germinate.

The Long Ashton researchers believe that CTS protein is important as a fatty acid transporter, but may also have a key role as a regulator of germination. They are continuing to investigate CTS in Arabidopsis, but are also interested in crops such as wheat and oilseed rape, where dormancy levels are associated with quality and performance.

Dr Mike Holdsworth | alfa
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