Crops and other plants are constantly confronted with adverse environmental conditions, lowering yield and costing farmers billions of dollars annually. Plants use specialized signals, called stress hormones, to sense difficult times and adapt to stressful conditions to enhance survival.
Of the various stress hormones, abscisic acid (ABA), produced naturally by plants, has emerged over the last 30 years as the key hormone that helps plants cope with drought conditions. Under such stress, plants increase their ABA levels, which helps them survive the drought through a process not fully understood. So critical is this endogenous chemical to plant survival that researchers have engineered new drought-resistant crops by tinkering with the ABA pathway.For years, scientists have contemplated spraying ABA directly onto crops to enhance their protection in times of stress. But ABA is a costly, complicated and light-sensitive molecule that has not found use in agriculture.
Using a method called chemical genomics, pioneered by UC Riverside researchers for studying plant biology, Cutler identified pyrabactin, a new synthetic chemical that turns on the ABA signaling pathway in Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant used widely in plant biology laboratories as a model organism.His lab then used pyrabactin to fish out a receptor for ABA – a highly controversial topic involving retractions of scientific papers as well as the publication of papers of questionable significance. A receptor is a protein molecule in a cell to which mobile signaling molecules may attach. Usually at the top of a signaling pathway, it functions like a boss relaying orders to the team below that then executes particular decisions in the cell.
Cutler's approach highlights the power of the chemical genetic approach for uncovering new leads for agrichemistry and, in turn, using those leads to understand a biological process.
"This is a striking example of how a chemical allowed us to solve a problem that genetics has been struggling with," he said. "Clearly, chemical genetics can be used to bypass some of the limitations that slow down classical genetic analysis. Not too long ago, the United Nations called for a 'blue revolution' - the water equivalent of the green revolution - of improved water management and sharing. We have proven that we can enlist chemicals that modulate stress responses in crops as soldiers in the blue revolution. Now our goal is to design the best chemical soldiers possible."
Study results appear April 30 in Science Express and in the May 22 issue of Science magazine.
Because of the prior questionable data in the ABA field, Cutler, the research paper's lead author, took the unusual step of sharing his data with key competitors and turning them into collaborators before publishing the results. Several labs working in the ABA signaling field tested the ABA receptor that Cutler's group identified, and validated his results. Scientists from these labs are co-authors of the research paper.
"Several high-profile papers have tried to claim discovery of ABA receptors but their research could not stand the test of time, and these papers were ultimately withdrawn," said Natasha Raikhel, the director of UCR's Center for Plant Cell Biology, of which Cutler is a member. "I believe this time, Dr. Cutler and his team have isolated a true ABA receptor."
Next in the research, Cutler and collaborator Brian Volkman of the Medical College of Wisconsin will work on deducing the structure of receptor-bound ABA and use this information to guide the design of new chemicals that turn on the ABA signaling pathway. Cutler and collaborators also plan to further understand how the ABA receptors affect plant physiology.
Cutler was joined in the research by colleagues at UCR; the University of Toronto, Canada; UC San Diego; Universidad Politecnica, Spain; University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada; UC Santa Barbara; and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Grants from the Canadian Research Chair, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada), the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health funded the five-year study.The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment of about 17,000 is expected to grow to 21,000 students by 2020. The campus is planning a medical school and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. To learn more, visit www.ucr.edu or call (951) UCR-NEWS.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Medical Wellness > Plants > Science TV > UCR > abscisic acid > blue revolution > crops > crops facing drought > drought-resistant crops > plant cell biology > pyrabactin mimics hormone > signaling pathway > stress hormone > stress hormones > stress tolerance > stressful conditions > synthetic biology
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy