Biotech Updates

Cornell Scientists Discover 'Fountain of Youth' for Leaves

August 28, 2013

A Cornell University research team led by Prof. Su-Sheng Gan has identified an enzymatic fountain of youth that slows the process of leaf death. In a series of experiments using Arabidopsis thaliana, the team discovered a key regulator, S3H, that acts as brake on leaf death. They observed that when S3H levels are low, leaves wilt early, but when it is present in high levels, it results in longer leaf longevity.

The study provides insight into a highly regulated process with many molecular steps. According to Gan, plant senescence, or biological aging, is estimated to involve 10 percent of genes in the genome. Plants use a quick ‘hypersensitive' process to block off pathogens by sacrificing infected cells to protect the surrounding healthy tissues.

Gan said, "Much of the progress plant breeders have made in improving plant yields is actually due to delaying leaf senescence. You need long-lived green tissue to support the production of fruits, vegetables and seeds, so senescence limits the yield of many crops."

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