Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Multitasking genes manage related traits in plants

28.11.2002


Think of it as finding the ultimate genetic engineers.




A plant biologist at Michigan State University has harvested clues about genes that coordinate the development of plant parts that must work together.

The work, published in the Nov. 28 issue of the British science journal Nature, points to a single mechanism that regulates the growth of related parts in flowers – kind of a genetic project manager.


"This is why we’re not just a discombobulated collection of parts. We’re coordinated," said paper author Jeffrey Conner, an associate professor of plant biology. "I found that the same genes can affect pairs of related traits."

Scientists have understood that creatures evolve to optimize their ability to survive and reproduce, ultimately building a plant or animal better adapted to its environment.

In plants, this can be seen in the size and proportions of a flower. Flowers are serious business in the plant world, the ground zero of reproduction. The parts of a flower – the petal, stamen and pistil – must be precisely constructed to lure a pollinator in to both fertilize the plant and carry away genetic material in the pollen to other flowers.

If a flower’s tube – where the nectar is – was short in relation to its stamens, the male parts of the flower, a bee could dive in, nab nectar and leave without rubbing up against the anthers and picking up their pollen.

"A flower has to evolve to successfully manipulate the behavior of the animal that pollinates it to get what it needs," Conner said. "The key is to make contact with the anthers and stigma. If that doesn’t happen, it’s worthless, from the plant’s point of view."

Conner, who does his National Science Foundation–funded research at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station, spent years randomly crossbreeding generations of wild radish to understand how the plant coordinates its floral parts to best reproduce.

He found that consistently the plant would evolve to make sure the flower’s tube and stamen parts developed in tight correlation, and that this development was traced to a number of genes doing double duty.

This genetic mechanism creates a design stability that carries the organism successfully through evolution.

While Conner works on plants, he said this tight orchestration is seen in all organisms. Genetic coordination, for instance, is the reason human arms don’t grow out of concert with legs and send people’s knuckles dragging to the ground.

"It keeps the parts in the right proportion, so they can do a job," he said.

Understanding that a single gene affects more than one part can help reveal why plants are successful and how they maintain a structural stability over time.

It also, Conner said, opens new areas of study in all organisms about the role one gene, or group of genes, can play.


ADDITIONAL MEDIA CONTACT:
Sue Nichols, University Relations 517-355-2281

MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS
Division of University Relations
403 Olds Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1047


Jeff Conner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://newsroom.msu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht No gene is an island
25.07.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>