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Crop Biotech Update

Plants Can Adapt Genetically to Survive Harsh Environments

February 4, 2011

At Purdue University, David Salt, a professor of horticulture found a genetic evidence for the adaption of plants to extreme environments. The HTK1 gene was identified to be the regulator of sodium intake in plants. Salt planted 300 accessions of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in non-saline soil and the place of origin of plants with the highest sodium content on the leaves were traced and mapped.

Results showed that these plants either grow in the coastal areas or in areas with high saline soils. Through genome-wide association mapping, plants with the high sodium levels in the leaf had a weak form of the HTK1 gene. David Salt said that this finding on the HTK1 gene is the first genetic evidence linking genetic changes with adaptation to specific environmental factors.

"Driven by natural selection, plants have been evolving to grow under harsh conditions for millennia," Salt said. "We need to understand genetically what is allowing these plants to survive these conditions."

The original research news artilce can be seen at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110131SaltSodium.html