Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Multitasking genes manage related traits in plants


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.

Sue Nichols, University Relations 517-355-2281

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

Jeff Conner | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

21.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>