Crop Biotech Update

Water 'Thermostat' Gene Could Help Develop Drought Resistant Crops

September 3, 2014

Plants respond to water loss by boosting calcium levels in their cells. The calcium surge then triggers coping mechanisms to help the plant rebalance its water budget, but the molecular machinery that plants use to send this signal has remained unknown.

Zhen Ming Pei and Duke University colleagues Fang Yuan and James Siedow identified OSCA1, the gene that could help develop drought resistant crops. OSCA1 encodes a protein in the cell membrane of plant leaves and roots which acts as a channel that allows calcium surge into the cell during drought. The research team found that when they grew normal plants side by side with plants with defective versions of the gene in the same pot and exposed them to drought stress, the mutant plants experienced more wilting.

For more details about this new finding, read the news release available at: http://today.duke.edu/2014/08/droughttolerance.