Biotech Updates

Scientists Discover Key Genes and Proteins Plants Use to Redirect Nitrogen

October 31, 2018

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have identified networks of genes and gene regulators that allow plants to direct nitrogen to different parts. Scientists have known that plants actively redirect nitrogen to their different parts, especially when the amount of nitrogen available in the soil is limited. But they have not identified the actual genes and proteins that add up to a plant-wide nitrogen regulatory system.

ARS molecular biologist Doreen Ware and her team identified 23 proteins called "transcription factors" that play specific roles in how plants use nitrogen. Ware traced these transcription factors back to the individual genes that control them and then forward to the genes on which they act. The research team also identified genes and transcription factors that help regulate other aspects of plant growth that involve nitrogen.

"What my team and our collaborators at the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) have identified are plant gene networks that direct nitrogen to those places where the plant benefits the most when nitrogen is in limited availability," Ware said. The scientists believe this research may open up new avenues for breeding plants that respond in a particular way under different environmental conditions.

For more details, read the ARS research news.