Crop Biotech Update

Reprogramming Plants for Drought Tolerance

February 11, 2015

The importance of abscisic acid (ABA) in plants suffering from drought tolerance has long been acknowledged. ABA is a stress hormone produced by plants during drought conditions. ABA inhibits growth and reduces water consumption by closing the stomata. Plants suffering from drought have been sprayed with ABA to further facilitate its survival. However, its use in this manner is inefficient because it is expensive, light sensitive and rapidly degrades once inside the plant cell. Hence, researchers from University of California Riverside, led by Sean Cutler, developed a way that will help plants survive against drought in the absence of ABA. This was done by reprogramming Arabidopsis thaliana and tomato plants by inserting a protein engineered receptor that will be activated by mandipropamid instead of ABA. Mandipropamid is an agrochemical used to control late blight in fruits and vegetables.

Result of their study shows that the reprogrammed plants exposed to drought conditions survive when sprayed with mandipropamid. The protein engineered receptor, which serves as a new version of the ABA receptor, responds effectively with mandipropamid and was able to mimic the action of ABA by closing the stomata in the leaves to reduce water consumption.

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