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Groundbreaking Research Shows Sugar to Trigger Growth


Clemson researcher part of discovery team

Science, a leading international research journal, reports today that a team of scientists, including Clemson University plant biochemist Brandon Moore, has found sugars not only serve as fuel for plants but also as signal compounds to genes critical to cell development and plant growth.

The research is considered to be groundbreaking, providing insights into the fundamental importance sugars play in both plants and animals. Scientists predict the findings will lead to new research on the role sugars have in human development and disorders, such as diabetes and obesity. For now, the research findings are expected to have more impact on agriculture, identifying new ways to improve crop yields.

"In plants, sugars are produced by photosynthesis. The sugars are then used to support all aspects of plant growth and development," said Moore. "Our evidence proves that glucose functions in plants not only as a nutrient, but also as a signal compound that affects the expression of many different genes involved in most vital processes. These include genes that code for proteins related to seed germination, root, shoot, and leaf growth, flowering and aging. The regulation of gene expression by glucose and other sugars indicates that these nutritional molecules act also as hormones."

The long-term goal of Moore’s research is to understand sugar sensing mechanisms.

"By examining the function of sugar sensors, identifying the components of the signal processes and determining the gene targets of sugar signaling, we can use our understanding of sugar control processes to manipulate specific targets related to crop yield," said Moore.

Moore and his colleagues are working with a model species, Arabidopsis, a mustard plant growing in northern temperate climates worldwide. It is a plant whose genome has been completely sequenced. Knowing all of the genes present in an organism is a valuable tool for identifying all of the proteins that control a specific process.

"Many components and targets of glucose signaling are conserved among plants and animals. The recognition of the hormone function of glucose will influence the thinking of scientists and society about our understanding of the metabolic control of gene expression and our approach to solving some types of diabetes and related disorders in glucose metabolism," said Moore.

Moore, 49, joined the Clemson faculty in Fall 2001, coming from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He earned his doctorate from Washington State University at Pullman, Wash.

Peter Kent | Clemson University
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