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Crop Biotech Update

Gene Network Controls Number of Flowers and Fruits During Critical Growth Window in Plants

November 9, 2016

A team of researchers led by Prof. Zachary Lippman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has identified a network of hundreds of genes that determine the duration of a critical window for stem cell growth in plants that give rise to flowers. According to the researchers, if this window is open longer, more stem cells develop, paving way for more flowers and branches to grow. The team also found that eliminating three specific genes in this network taken from tomato plants, resulted in plants producing just one or two flowers.

The researchers screened over 20,000 genes from five nightshade species. They found a network of around 300 genes that turn on and off during maturation process, and they tracked the activity of those genes during different time periods within the critical window.

Their report in Genome Research states that in plants with simple inflorescences that produce a solitary flower on each inflorescence, a subset of the 300 genes turns on during early stages in the critical window. In plants with more complex inflorescences, the same set of genes turns on a little bit later, extending the window and allowing more time for additional stem cell populations to form. These populations in turn give rise to more branches and more flowers. In food crops such as tomato, this results in higher yields.

For more details, read the news release at the CSHL website.