Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

By Revving Up Key Gene, Researchers Discover They Can Manipulate The Size Of Cells In Plants

Date:
November 6, 1998
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists and colleagues have discovered that they can manipulate the size of plant cells without changing the overall size of the plant itself. The discovery is something of a scientific breakthrough, the researchers say, because one day it could lead to food crops more resistant to overly dry or wet conditions and enable horticulturists to manipulate plants in other useful ways.

By DAVID WILLIAMSON, UNC-CH News Services

CHAPEL HILL – By revving up a key gene in plants –- making it produce more protein than it would naturally -- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists and colleagues have discovered that they can manipulate the size of plant cells without changing the overall size of the plant itself.

The discovery is something of a scientific breakthrough, the researchers say, because one day it could lead to food crops more resistant to overly dry or wet conditions and enable horticulturists to manipulate plants in other useful ways.

"Before long, we should be able to control the size of wood cells in trees," said Dr. Alan M. Jones, associate professor of biology at UNC-CH. "Since soft wood is better for making paper, for example, we could grow softer woods by increasing the size of cells in a tree trunk, or we could produce harder woods for furniture by making their cells smaller."

A report on the discovery appears in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal Science. Besides Jones, UNC-CH authors are Drs. Kyumg-Hoam Im and Ming-Jing Wu, postdoctoral fellows in biology, and graduate student Gregory DeWitt. Others are Drs. Andrew Binns and Michael Savka of the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Raymond Shillito, of AgrEvo, a Pikeville, N.C., agricultural development company.

In research completed in 1989, Jones identified a protein he believed to be the receptor to auxin, a major plant hormone that causes cells to grow, expand and change form. At the time, he could not link the protein to the hormone by genetic methods to prove that it was a genuine auxin receptor.

Now, using what is called a reverse genetic approach, he and his colleagues have been able to demonstrate the protein is exactly what they thought.

"We over-expressed -- or excessively turned on -- a special gene we created that makes this important receptor in tobacco," the scientist said. "Expression of this special gene, which we call a transgene, can be turned on or off by feeding plants the drug tetracycline. When we added tetracycline to the transgenic plants, what we found in both cultured cells and whole plants was remarkable."

The team discovered it could produce an over-abundance of the auxin receptor, but more interestingly, they found they had created normal-looking tobacco plants that were not normal at all. Individual plant cells were two to four the size of natural tobacco cells. As a result, plants contained fewer cells.

"We also found we could control the size of the cell by controlling expression of our transgene," Jones said. "We didn’t get any effect unless we also added the hormone auxin, and that proves the protein is definitely the auxin receptor. It is the hormone and the receptor that bind together that cause the cell expansion response."

The work is a breakthrough in the field of plant hormones that will allow the field to move forward, he said.

"Farmers have been doing genetic engineering since before the time of Jesus Christ by selecting seeds from larger fruits or particular fruits to plant," he said. "That is essentially all we are doing today in plant biotechnology, except that now we have become much more sophisticated. We are extremely excited about this work."

Although plants and animals produce some similar hormones, no hormone receptor comparable to the auxin receptor exists in human or other animals, Jones said. He and his colleagues work with tobacco cells because they are easy to transform genetically.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "By Revving Up Key Gene, Researchers Discover They Can Manipulate The Size Of Cells In Plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981106081643.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (1998, November 6). By Revving Up Key Gene, Researchers Discover They Can Manipulate The Size Of Cells In Plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981106081643.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "By Revving Up Key Gene, Researchers Discover They Can Manipulate The Size Of Cells In Plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981106081643.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 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
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
Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." 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