Crop Biotech Update

Plant Biologists Develop Synthetic Auxin to Understand Plant's Mysteries

January 24, 2018

A lab-designed version of hormone auxin and an engineered receptor to recognize were developed by a team of scientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to investigate the mysteries behind plant growth and development. The study is published in Nature Chemical Biology.

According to study leader Keiko Torii, auxin has a lot of functions in various plants such as helping sunflower track sunlight, roots grown downward, and fruits ripen. "It's been a huge mystery as to how such a simple molecule can do so many different things," Torii added. To study plant's responses to the hormone, Torii and her team developed a synthetic version of auxin that can be precisely controlled. They also added hydrocarbon rings, which is not present in natural auxin. Then they removed an amino acid in the auxin receptor of Arabidopsis, which left a hole to cradle the synthetic auxin. They tested the new set of auxin and receptor and it worked efficiently. Using the new system, they have confirmed the specific receptor involved in seed elongation.

The researchers are optimistic that the synthetic auxin will be useful for agriculture, but more tests are still necessary to use the new system in growing food.

For more details, read the original article from HHMI.