It is not known what genes turn leaves yellow in the fall. However, scientists at Umeå Plant Science Center, Umeå University, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH) have managed to identify more than 2,400 genes that take part in the process.
One of the most magnificent pageants of nature every year is when trees take on their autumn colors. Scientists have long known that these colors appear when the green pigment chlorophyll is broken down at the same time as the yellow carotenoids remain and red antocyanines are formed. This process is steered, like all others in a living organism, by genes. Certain genes see to it that the process starts at the right time, others make sure that the chlorophyll and a number of other constituents of the leaf are degraded and others are created, such as antocyanines. Even though this is a process that has fascinated people throughout the ages, molecular biologists have previously not paid any attention whatsoever to the process, and until now no one has known anything about a single gene that takes part in the process.
Now scientists at Umeå University and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm who have been studying aspens have stepped forward, presenting more than 2,400 genes that are expressed in autumn leaves. With the help of so-called EST sequencing, they distinguished 5,128 pieces of gene sequences that proved to belong to 2,407 different genes, all of which were expressed on September 14, 1999 in the leaves of an aspen growing on the Umeå University campus.
Karin Wikman | alfa
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