Plant Scientists Discover Gene for Fast Growing Crops

Research teams at the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) and the University of Bordeaux have discovered Phloem Unloading Modulator (PLM), a novel gene affecting nutrient trafficking by altering the channels connecting neighboring plant cells also known as plasmodesmata. These nanoscale membrane-lined channels link plant cells together and enable the transfer of essential substances.

The study shows that Arabidopsis plants without the PLM gene released more substances from the phloem (specialized tissue for long distance transport) at the tips of their roots. With the help of a fluorescent protein as a proxy for macromolecules, the scientists saw that the PLM gene had a controlling effect on the amount of phloem unloading. To find out how the PLM gene did this, they looked at different cell interfaces in the roots of seedling plants.

According to lead author Dr. Dawei Yan from SLCU, they found mutating PLM relieves a trafficking bottleneck that was previously reducing the outward movement of nutrients from the vascular system to the rapidly growing tissues in the roots. Further tests revealed that PLM is involved in the biosynthesis of sphingolipids, a class of lipids associated with plant development and response to the environment.

For more details, read the news article in the Sainsbury Laboratory.


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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