Crop Biotech Update

Study Demonstrates Evolutionary Link between Plants and Humans

February 19, 2010

By demonstrating that a human protein important in cancer development can revive dying plants, researchers at Purdue University have shown an evolutionary link between plants and humans. The aminopeptidase M1 protein, or APM1, is critical for root development in plants. Arabidopsis plants lacking the protein will die, but can be rescued if the protein is restored. The Purdue researchers found that inserting a similar protein found in humans, called insulin responsive aminopeptidase, or IRAP, also rescued the plants.

"APM1 and IRAP are in the same group," said Wendy Peer, leader of the study. "M1 aminopeptidase activity is such a fundamental process that it's been conserved evolutionarily. This protein has changed very little over time." Peer noted that the finding could advance the understanding of this class of proteins because it might make it possible to conduct studies with plants instead of animals, offering researchers more control and options. Humans with altered function of the equivalent proteins often have leukemia or other cancers.

The paper published by Plant Physiology is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1104/pp.109.148742 Read http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100215PeerProtein.html for more information.