Biotech Updates

Researchers Discover How Plants Avoid Sunburn

August 14, 2013

Researchers from Dartmouth College, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Australian National University have discovered a group of stress-related proteins that explains how plants avoid being sunburned under intense light, a finding that could help biotechnologists develop crops that can better cope with hotter, drier conditions.

In the study, Dartmouth Professor Hou-Sung Jung and his colleagues showed that a group of transcription factors called Heat Shock Transcription Factors are responsible for fast responses of plants to changes in light intensity - from light conditions that are optimal for photosynthesis to bright light that causes sunburn. The transcription factors, which are proteins that control the flow of genetic information, generate an enzyme responsible for detoxifying harmful molecules, which accumulate under very bright light. Jung is now studying factors involved in plant responses to prolonged bright light. Studying these short-term and long-term response factors may make it possible to generate plants with increased protection from bright light with enhanced photosynthesis rates.

The results of this research are summarized in a paper in the journal PNAS available at: (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1311632110).