holds key to how plants cope with stress
at Leeds believe they have found the key to making agriculture
more productive in harsh conditions, through research
into how plants deal with stress. Plants and mammals have
a similar chemical reaction to stress at a cellular level,
so the research could also have implications for the treatment
of degenerative diseases which affect humans.
Alison Baker, Eduardo Lopez Huertas and Wayne Charlton
of the Centre for Plant Sciences, have identified a gene,
PEX1, involved in regulating plant responses to different
types of stress. Plants rarely grow in perfect conditions
light levels, temperature or soil conditions can
be wrong, they might be eaten or suffer fungal or bacterial
infections. How effective plants are in combating such
problems will affect the speed and strength of their growth.
scientists attached a reporter molecule which emits light,
to the PEX1 DNA, so that it would be visible whenever
the gene was active. Plants with this DNA were then placed
under different kinds of stress. The scientists found
that the gene was activated in areas of plants which had
been wounded, and in response to the introduction of non-fatal
bacteria. A similar reaction to stress was noted in mammalian
cells, which also have the same gene.
scientists have recently been awarded over £150,000
to try to determine how the expression of PEX1 is controlled,
and whether it is a universal mechanism in plant cells
to combat stress. In the future, this could lead to more
stress-resistant plant strains, able to produce higher
yields in countries with difficult growing conditions,
and reducing the need for pesticides by using their own
defence systems to survive disease and predators.