Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Isolate Gene That Helps Plants Take Iron From Soil

Date:
February 25, 1999
Source:
Dartmouth College
Summary:
Researchers have isolated a gene that helps plants to move the iron in soil into their roots. The finding could enable scientists to develop plants that are more efficient in extracting this essential element from poor soils and to that are richer sources of dietary iron. The study, led by biologists Mary Lou Guerinot, of Dartmouth College, and Nigel Robinson, of Newcastle University, England, is reported in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Nature.

HANOVER, N.H. – Researchers have isolated a gene that helps plants to move the iron in soil into their roots. The finding could enable scientists to develop plants that are more efficient in extracting this essential element from poor soils and to that are richer sources of dietary iron. The study, led by biologists Mary Lou Guerinot, of Dartmouth College, and Nigel Robinson, of Newcastle University, England, is reported in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Nature.

A lack of nutrients that is not associated with famine conditions is known as "hidden hunger" and is recognized as the world's biggest malnutrition problem, says Guerinot. "Because plants are the principle source of iron for most people, the generation of iron-fortified crops could have a significant impact on human health." The World Health Organization estimates that more than 3 billion people suffer from iron deficiency.

Although iron is as essential to healthy plants as it is to healthy humans, more than a third of the world's soils are deficient in ferrous iron – the form of iron that plants need for growth. The ferric reductase gene, cloned by Guerinot and colleagues from the common weed Arabidopsis, produces an enzyme that transforms ferric iron, the most common form of iron found in soils, into ferrous iron. The ferric reductase enzyme straddles the surfaces of the plant's root cells in a series of loops. Each molecule of reductase collects electrons from chemicals manufactured inside the root cell and passes them onto ferric compounds in the soil around the root. This converts the ferric compounds into ferrous compounds which can then be absorbed by the root cell.

To isolate the gene that encodes the reductase enzyme, the Dartmouth investigators produced large numbers of randomly-mutated specimens of Arabidopsis and screened them until they were able to identify two specimens unable to produce the reductase enzyme. Meanwhile, the Newcastle team used molecular techniques to clone several genes that might encode reductase enzymes. By mapping the genes and the mutations, the two groups realized that one of the genes identified by the Newcastle team was probably the gene mutated in the plants identified by the Dartmouth team. This was confirmed by sequencing the gene, called FRO2, in the two mutant plant specimens. Graduate student Catherine Procter of the Newcastle team found that in both cases, the gene had mutated to a form which would render it non-functional.

Postdoctoral researcher Erin Connolly of the Dartmouth team moved a working copy of the FRO2 gene back into the mutated plants, which then began to reduce and absorb iron in the normal way, confirming that the gene was responsible for production of reductase.

"Enhancing the nutrient content value of plants for human consumption has rarely been an objective of plant research, in part because it was presumed that nutrient-enhanced plants would be lower yielding," says Guerinot. "Scientists now realize that breeding or genetically engineering plants for improved nutrient content is a worthwhile objective."

The investigators have begun research on several closely-related genes that may be responsible for concentrating the iron in specific parts of plants, such as the leaves or fruits, or may be involved in uptake of other metals such as copper. Manipulating these genes could boost "green" technologies such as phytoremediation, a method of removing pollutants from industrial wasteland by growing plants on it.

The work by the US based team was funded by the National Science Foundation; the UK-based team was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth College. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dartmouth College. "Researchers Isolate Gene That Helps Plants Take Iron From Soil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/02/990225072317.htm>.
Dartmouth College. (1999, February 25). Researchers Isolate Gene That Helps Plants Take Iron From Soil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/02/990225072317.htm
Dartmouth College. "Researchers Isolate Gene That Helps Plants Take Iron From Soil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/02/990225072317.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. 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