By taking a fresh approach to an old problem, University of California, San Diego biologists and colleagues at other institutions have found a new gene essential for plant growth, a discovery that could lead to the design of better herbicides and even novelty plants.
Images of normal plant (above) and plant exposed to chemical that inactivates the newly discovered gene SIR1 (below)
Credit: Yunde Zhao, UCSD
Despite 100 years of research on auxin, a plant hormone essential in regulating plants’ development and responses to their surroundings, including the ability of plants to grow toward light, much remains unknown about how auxin is synthesized and how it works. A new approach known as “chemical genetics,” in which chemicals are used to regulate activities of proteins produced by specific genes, has revealed a previously unknown gene, SIR1, which functions to keep the effects of auxin in check. The UCSD scientists say that one implication of their discovery is the potential development of environmentally safe herbicides from chemicals that impede the action of auxin by over-activating the SIR1 gene.
A paper featured on the cover of the October 10, 2003 issue of Plant Physiology details the chemical genetic approach. The discovery of the SIR1 gene was reported in the August 22nd issue of Science.
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