Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New gene necessary for plant growth and development discovered

13.10.2003


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.


“By using chemical genetics we have been able to identify a new gene that regulates the important plant hormone auxin,” explains Yunde Zhao, assistant professor of biology at UCSD, who was largely responsible for the work. “This finding can be applied to manipulating plant growth, including the development of a new generation of herbicides. Chemical genetics shows a great deal of promise for helping us understand aspects of plant biology, like how auxin is synthesized and controlled, where genetic methods used by researchers until now only had limited success.”

Interestingly, the researchers found that if, at different times, they applied and withdrew the chemical that inactivated the SIR1 protein, this led to strangely shaped plants because SIR1 usually dampens the effect of auxin. Auxin plays important roles in the development of roots, stems and leaves, but either too much or too little auxin interferes with development. Zhao thinks this could have implications for the design of novel flowers and other plant structures.

“Some had leaves that developed into striking trumpet-like shapes,” he says.

Chemical genetics has two major advantages over the genetic approaches traditionally used. First, chemical genetics can permit a researcher to study the effects of more subtle gene changes than eliminating a gene. This is important because a gene may play more than one role, at multiple times during development. If the gene has an essential role early in development, then eliminating it will kill the organism, preventing researchers from discovering other roles for that gene later in development. Since chemical genetics is reversible, by simply stopping the application of a chemical that inactivates or activates a protein produced by a gene, it can be used to study what a gene does at different stages in development.

A second advantage of chemical genetics has to do with the fact that the molecules used can often inactivate related proteins with the same function. A problem with the traditional approach of eliminating a particular gene to determine its function is that if there are two or more genes with the same or similar functions, removing one of those genes may have no apparent effect on the health of the organism. This gene redundancy is more common in plants than in animals.

“About 70% of the genes in the model plant we used in our study, Arabidopsis, may have at least two copies,” Zhao points out. “This is a problem with traditional genetic approaches, but with chemical genetics a small molecule will most likely be able to inactivate all members of a closely related family of proteins provided that they operate by a similar mechanism.”

Both gene redundancy and the lethal effect of eliminating genes essential for plant development have plagued biologists studying auxin for many years. Because chemical genetics can be useful in solving these two problems, Zhao thinks that the application of chemical genetics will likely lead to rapid advances in the field.

While the technique of chemical genetics had been used by researchers working on yeast, bacteria and mammalian cells in culture, its application in plant biology is still at an infancy stage. Zhao cites his background as a biochemist as helping him to come with a fresh perspective to the auxin problem.

“When I started working on plants, I didn’t have much knowledge in plant biology,” Zhao says. “So I wasn’t afraid of taking on those projects the plant biologists didn’t think would work.”

The SIR1 work was initiated by Zhao in the laboratory of Joanne Chory, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and continued in Zhao’s own lab at UCSD in collaboration with Xinhua Dai, research associate in biology at UCSD; Helen Blackwell, now assistant professor of chemistry at University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Stuart Schreiber, professor of chemistry at Harvard University and an HHMI investigator. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Plant Physiology paper on chemical genetic approaches to plant biology was written in collaboration with Helen Blackwell, with support from the NIH.

Sherry Seethaler | UCSD
Further information:
http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/auxingenes.htm
http://www.sdtelecom.org/
http://www.plantphysiol.org/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New sensor detects rare metals used in smartphones
24.04.2019 | Penn State

nachricht Controlling instabilities gives closer look at chemistry from hypersonic vehicles
24.04.2019 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Energy-saving new LED phosphor

The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.

Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Proteins stand up to nerve cell regression

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

New sensor detects rare metals used in smartphones

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Controlling instabilities gives closer look at chemistry from hypersonic vehicles

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>