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Crop Biotech Update

Vitamin C for Plant Growth

September 28, 2007

Vitamin C which is an essential vitamin for normal human body functions, and an antioxidant which helps plants deal with stresses from drought to ozone, and UV radiation. A new finding by scientists from the University of Exeter, UK, and Shimane University of Japan, shows that vitamin C is important also in the growth and development of plants. The study, published in The Plant Journal, describes the newly-identified enzyme, GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase which produces vitamin C, or ascorbate, in plants.  Professor Nicholas Smirnoff of the University of Exeter’s School of Biosciences and lead author of the paper said: ‘Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in plants and yet its functions are poorly understood. By discovering that the new enzyme is encoded by two genes, we were able to engineer vitamin C-free plants and found that they were unable to grow.’

This study is the beginning of other research endeavors towards the understanding of growth processes in plants, improvement of plants response to stresses in changing climate, and improvement of crop yield in a sustainable manner. In addition, the discovery of the new enzyme could open posibilities for simpler production of vitamin C pills.

See the details of the press release at: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/newsplantgrowth.shtml