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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Identify Mechanism that Protects Plant Fertility from Stress

March 3, 2021
Argonaute-like (AGO) proteins in male germline precursor cells. Photo Source: University of Warwick

Temperatures rise due to global warming and the need to protect crops from extremely stressful conditions has increased. A University of Warwick-led consortium has successfully identified two proteins that protect crops from stress, which is key in safeguarding food production.

Researchers from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick studied the molecular mechanisms that maize plants use to safeguard fertility under high temperatures and identified two Argonaute-like (AGO) proteins that protect the male sex cells. The researchers subjected maize plants with non-functional AGO proteins to different growth conditions and discovered that a 5°C increase in ambient temperature dramatically decreased male fertility.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, the team found that higher temperatures activated small pieces of ribonucleic acid (or small RNAs) in wild-type plants, binding to these AGO proteins to control the activity of stress-activated jumping genes, which are pieces of DNA that can copy themselves into different parts of the genome. Therefore, these AGO proteins control the activity of jumping-genes and protect plant fertility.

For more details, read the article in Warwick News and Events.

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