Gene that helps plants beat the heat identified

October 7th, 2008 - 4:17 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 7 (ANI): In a new study Michigan State University plant scientists have found a new gene, called bZIP28, that helps plants to beat the heat.

The discovery may help plant breeders to create new varieties of crops that flourish in warmer, drier climates.

Using Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family used as a model plant for genetic studies, the researchers found that the gene bZIP28 helps regulate heat stress response.

This is the first time bZIP28 has been shown to play a role heat tolerance.

“We also found that bZIP28 was responding to signals from the endoplasmic reticulum, which is the first time the ER has been shown to be involved with the response to heat. We”re finding that heat tolerance is a more complex process than was first thought,” said Robert Larkin, MSU assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and corresponding author of the paper.

In an earlier research, it was found that the nucleus, the “brain” of the cell, and cytosol, the fluid inside cells, control how plants respond to heat. Endoplasmic reticulum, a membrane in the cell that consists of small tubes and sac-like structures, is mainly responsible for packaging and storing proteins in the cell.

Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and a member of the research team, said that they wanted to look for genes that turn other genes on and off and are tied to cell membranes.

Such membrane-tethered gene switches though are located in animals, but they have not yet been studied in great detail in plants.

“The bZIP28 protein is anchored in the endoplasmic reticulum, away from its place of action. But when the plant is stressed by heat, one end of bZIP28 is cut off and moves into the nucleus of the cell where it can turn on other genes to control the heat response. Understanding how the whole mechanism works will be the subject of more research,” explained Benning.

The plants having an inactive bZIP28 gene die as soon as temperatures reach a certain level.

The study is published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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