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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Genetic Trigger for Asexual Plant Reproduction

February 3, 2016

The union of a sperm and an egg is the beginning of a new life. This is the case in humans and animals, and in principle, it also happens in plants. A German-Israeli team led by Professors Ralf Reski from Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg and Nir Ohad from Tel-Aviv University has discovered a gene trigger in the moss Physcomitrella patens which leads to offsprings without fertilization.

The team describes the gene BELL1 as a master regulator for the formation of embryos and their development in Physcomitrella. After the researchers activated this gene in the plants by genetic engineering, embryos developed spontaneously in a specific cell type. These embryos grew to fully functional moss sporophytes. These spore capsules could even form spores, which grew into new moss plants. The team identified BELL1 as a master regulator for embryo development in mosses. Professor Reski said, "Our results may help to modernize agriculture through the creation of genetically identical offspring from high-yielding crop plants."

For more information, read the news releases from the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg and Tel Aviv University.