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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Explain How Plants Resist Drought

February 15, 2017

Scientists from the University of Illinois investigated the molecular mechanism that enables plants to lessen water loss while facing drought. They focused on a key hormone known as abscisic acid (ABA) which binds to a protein (PYL receptor) and then causes a series of reactions leading to the closing of pores in the plants' leaves. When this happens, there is zero or minimal water loss from the plants.

The researchers thought of using ABA to spray on plants to make them drought resistant. However, ABA is moderately stable and molecularly complex to be directly sprayed on plants. Thus, the goal is to make another compound that mimics ABA. They used experimental techniques such as X-ray diffraction to understand the molecular mechanism involved between ABA and the PYL receptor, but it was difficult to catch the two in the act. With the use of molecular dynamic simulations in supercomputers, the researchers got the answers. They successfully simulated two kinds of PYL receptors from Arabidopsis. They plan to confirm if the mechanism is also present in other plants such as rice.

Read the abstract of the study at the Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society's website.