Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who Needs Flowers? Transgenic Plants Sprout Embryos On Leaves

Date:
June 30, 1998
Source:
University Of California, Davis
Summary:
University of California, Davis, biologists have brought a seed-building gene to life in a plant's leaves instead of its blossoms, a novel feat that could lead to valuable innovations in food crops.

University of California, Davis, biologists have brought a seed-building gene to life in a plant's leaves instead of its blossoms, a novel feat that could lead to valuable innovations in food crops.

The biologists first isolated LEC1, a widely sought gene believed to be key to seed development. Then they engineered plants that would put the gene to work much earlier than usual in the plant's life cycle.

One result of the gene's rescheduled activity was particularly striking: Some leaf surfaces sprouted tiny clusters of glove-shaped, embryonic tissue. And some of those embryos, while still attached to the leaf surfaces, even grew roots.

The new research, described in the June 26 issue of the journal Cell, was the work of researchers in the laboratory of UC Davis plant biologist John Harada and collaborators at UC Berkeley and UCLA. It was led by Tamar Lotan, a post-doctoral researcher with Harada.

"The discovery of LEC1 is very exciting," said Terry Thomas, a plant biologist at Texas A&M University who was not involved in the study. "It's an important step toward understanding the complex problems of seed development."

Harada said LEC1 will be useful in figuring out the coordination between the early, tissue-building stage of embryo development and the late, seed-maturing stage.

"The LEC1 gene is teaching us a great deal," he said. "And the research also has implications for some important applications."

For instance, making LEC1 function in a plant's leaves could revolutionize the production of oils and proteins from corn, canola (rapeseed) and soybeans -- essential food supplies for people and livestock.

"Mature seeds contain lots of those oils and proteins. They nourish the developing plant in the period after the seed germinates and before photosynthesis begins," Harada said. "Traditionally, we've had to wait for those products a long time -- until the plant matures, blooms and sets seed.

"But there may be advantages to engineering a plant that produces them in its vegetation," he said. Imagine, for example, grinding corn leaves instead of corn kernels for cooking oil.

Another possibility is that plant embryos might be raised in leaf-tissue nurseries to solve a long-standing problem in agriculture: how to more efficiently produce plants with the qualities and vigor that are now achieved only by cross-breeding, or hybridization.

For many crops, hybrid seed is generated by crossing different elite lines, each selected for desired traits. However, these hybrid offspring don't consistently pass those qualities down to their offspring.

But embryo farming could produce "artificial seeds" that would all be clones of the hybrid parent and perpetuate its strengths, said Harada and another author of the study, biologist Bob Goldberg of UCLA.

"If the LEC1 gene paves the way to the development of seeds without fertilization, it would have enormous potential," Goldberg said. "Hybrid vigor could be fixed in a given line, making it unnecessary to cross inbred lines and establishing a hybrid generation after generation. That would provide a new strategy for significantly increased yields in food and fiber production."

Harada stresses that those are all applications that might become possible, but haven't yet. "The results in this study were promising, but technically difficult to achieve," he said.

To wit: Of 7,000 seeds with the engineered LEC1 gene, only about 40 germinated. Ten of those seedlings grew stems and leaves and bloomed; seven set seed. Offspring from two of these plants had embryo-like structures on their leaves.

Next, the LEC1 researchers will explore the activities of the gene inside plant cells. The Cell paper establishes LEC1 (named for a mutation that affects a sprout's first leaves, called cotyledons) as an important regulatory gene, one that turns other genes on or off. Now the group wants to find out what those other genes are and what they do.

The group also hopes to show how LEC1's protein product interacts with other proteins to assemble seeds.

"We don't know that this work will definitely lead to applied uses," Harada said. "But if it does, it will be another example where beneficial applications come out of basic research -- in this case, basic research into plant embryogenesis and how it's regulated."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California, Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California, Davis. "Who Needs Flowers? Transgenic Plants Sprout Embryos On Leaves." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980630081349.htm>.
University Of California, Davis. (1998, June 30). Who Needs Flowers? Transgenic Plants Sprout Embryos On Leaves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980630081349.htm
University Of California, Davis. "Who Needs Flowers? Transgenic Plants Sprout Embryos On Leaves." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980630081349.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) MIT researchers were able to change whether bad memories in mice made them anxious by flicking an emotional switch in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A study out of University at Buffalo claims couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to experience intimate partner violence. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A panda in China showed pregnancy symptoms that disappeared after two months of observation. One theory: Her pseudopregnancy was a ploy for perks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins