Biotech Updates

Research Team Identifies Genetic Target for Growing Hardier Plants Under Stress

April 26, 2017

Roots serve as the plant's mouth, absorbing, storing, and channeling water and nutrients essential for survival. Tremendous research has been done to develop plants that are more effective at these tasks. In a new study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have identified two proteins - SERRATE and GRP8 - that regulate whether a cell in plant roots forms a hair cell or a non-hair cell. Plants that overexpressed GRP8 thrived despite the absence of a key nutrient, phosphorous.

SERRATE plays a role in alternative splicing and microRNA biogenesis, processes that can alter gene expression in different ways. The researchers looked at plants with reduced SERRATE levels and found the plants had more and longer hair cells.

The second RNA binding protein they identified was GRP8, known to affect plant response to stress through regulating processes that affect gene expression. The researchers found that GRP8-overexpressing plants could turn on genes that increase the ability to take up and transport phosphate compared to normal plants, resulting in larger plants. Such plants also produce more hair cells, readily absorb water from the soil, and do well under drought conditions.

For more information, read the news article at PennNews.