Biotech Updates

Genetic Trigger Adds Branches to Plants, Could Boost Crop Yields

February 14, 2018

Plants cannot make unlimited number of branches -- a gene puts the brakes on this process called shoot branching. A group of researchers, though, reveals a chemical that can reverse this limitation, possibly leading to improved crop production.

A regulator gene called D14 was identified in previous studies about shoot branching. Shinya Hagihara, Yuichiro Tsuchiya and colleagues reasoned that if they could inhibit this regulator, they could do the opposite and increase branching. The research teams developed a screen to monitor shoot branching activity based on whether a reporter chemical called Yoshimulactone Green (YLG) glowed green.

By screening a library of 800 compounds, the researchers found that 18 of them inhibited D14 by 70 percent or more. One of these is called DL1, and could increase shoot branching in both a type of flower and in rice. The team is now testing how long the chemicals last in the soil and are investigating whether it is toxic to humans.

For more details, read the news release from The American Chemical Society.