Biotech Updates

Scientists Pinpoint Heat-Tolerance Gene

October 10, 2008

Researchers from the Michigan State University (MSU) in the U.S. have identified a gene that plays a linchpin role in plant heat stress response. As published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the identification of bZIP28 by Cristoph Benning and colleagues holds promising implications for the improvement of heat tolerance in crops.

The MSU researchers found that the gene bZIP28 helps regulate heat stress adaptation in the model plant Arabidopsis. The gene encodes a membrane-tethered protein that can turn on other genes to control heat response. Plants with an inactive bZIP28 die as soon as temperatures reach a certain level.

Heat tolerance in plants turns out to be more complex than previously thought. The team found that bZIP28 was responding to signals from the endoplasmic reticulum, which is the first time the ER has been shown to be involved with the response to heat. Previous research has shown that the nucleus, the “control center” of the cell, and cytosol, the fluid inside cells, play a role in how plants respond to heat. The ER, a network of tubules, vesicles and sac-like structures, is mainly responsible for packaging and storing proteins in the cell.

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