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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Discover Gene That Protects against Toxic Byproducts of Photosynthesis

March 16, 2016

A research team led by Associate Professor Miyake Chikahiro and PhD student Takagi Daisuke from the Kobe University Graduate School of Agricultural Science, has discovered that a gene in plants suppresses the toxic byproducts of photosynthesis.

When plants absorb energy from sunlight during photosynthesis, the excess energy reacts with oxygen in cells to produce harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS). Luckily, plants have genes that neutralize these toxic species. Professor Miyake's research group evaluated one of these genes, known as "AOR" (alkenal/one oxidoreductase).

The researchers deleted the gene from some plants and compared them to wild species. Plants without the AOR gene were found significantly smaller than plants with AOR when exposed to a standard day/night cycle. However, when constantly exposed to sunlight, no significant difference in growth was observed. This suggests that the AOR gene has no effect on the daytime process, but instead protects night time respiration.

During the dark hours, plants use oxygen to convert the starch into glucose. Researchers found leftover starch the next morning in the leaves of plants without the AOR gene. Without the gene, the toxic molecules that had accumulated at daytime prevented the plants from respiring properly, stunting their growth.

For more information, read the article at the Kobe University website.