Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

UCSD Scientists Identify Genes Controlling Seed Dispersal

Date:
April 18, 2000
Source:
University Of California, San Diego
Summary:
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified genes in a laboratory weed that are necessary for normal seed dispersal.

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified genes in a laboratory weed that are necessary for normal seed dispersal.

In the April 14th issue of Nature, the researchers report the identification of two genes in Arabidopsis that, when inactivated, prevent this weed from shattering its seed-containing pods. This is significant because the inactivation of these same genes in canola and other closely related, commercially important crops should prevent the premature dispersal of seeds that typically results in significant losses of yield.

The discovery could dramatically increase the harvesting of canola seeds, a $9-billion-a-year industry worldwide that is rapidly growing because of the health benefits of canola oil, but is now hampered because so much of that crop is lost to pod shatter. It could also lead to commercially significant savings in the collection of seeds for valuable hybrids of broccoli, cauliflower and other crops.

"Under adverse conditions, such as very windy conditions, which is not all that uncommon during the harvesting time, as much as half of the canola crop ends up on the ground," says Martin F. Yanofsky, a professor of biology at UCSD who headed the research team that made the discovery. "If you can double the yield, that means you can plant the canola on half as much land and use half as much of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are now routinely sprayed on these plants."

In their study, UCSD biologists Sarah J. Liljegren, Gary S. Ditta, and Yanofsky identified a type of gene, called a "shatterproof" gene, that allows Arabidopsis plants to disperse their seeds. Two other scientists from the University of California, Davis, John L. Bowman and

Yuval Eshed, and a former UCSD scientist, Beth Savidge, contributed to the study. The UCSD scientists determined that mutant strains without two normal copies of this type of gene, lacked the ability to disperse seeds through pod shatter.

"These two genes are what we call functionally redundant," explains Yanofsky, "meaning that they are so similar to one another that the proteins they produce are virtually identical. Knocking out just one gene leaves the pod-shattering mechanism intact. So in order to identify the shatterproof function, we had to knock out both genes. Only when we had the double mutant did we actually get the effect."

The UCSD researchers believe that the shatterproof genes in Arabidopsis are the identical genes used by canola, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and others in the Brassica family of mustard plants to promote seed dispersal.

"Most people don’t realize this, but when broccoli and cauliflower do go on to flower, they will produce fruit that looks exactly the same as the fruit of Aribidopsis, " says Yanofsky. "The fruit of Aribidopsis is much smaller, but morphologically, the overall structure of the pod, its architecture, how it develops and the genes that are involved are the same in all of these plants. So we should be able to control this process in each of these plants."

The UCSD researchers believe the applications of this discovery to agriculture should come quickly, because knocking out the genes in all of these plants is now a relatively straight-forward process. One agricultural biotechnology company is already working with the UCSD researchers to prevent pod shatter in canola.

"Although these plants are grown to eat or for the oils they produce," notes Yanofsky, "they’re also grown to make seeds for the next generation of crops. There’s a lot of time and money that goes into producing the seeds. So any increase in the yield of the seeds will be beneficial."

The largest commercial impact of the discovery, however, will be in the canola-seed production industry. Because the valuable canola oils begin to accumulate in the seeds just as the plants approach maturity, farmers usually wait until their crop is fully mature before they begin harvesting the seeds.

"Typically, the pods are opening at the same time the farmers are collecting the canola seeds, so its essentially a race in which the farmers try to get as much of their crop without losing it to this pod-shattering problem," says Yanofsky. "By knocking out the two shatterproof genes, we can eliminate this problem, while drastically increasing the yield of canola and perhaps even doubling it."

The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Monsanto Company and the University of California’s BioSTAR program.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University Of California, San Diego. "UCSD Scientists Identify Genes Controlling Seed Dispersal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000417100652.htm>.
University Of California, San Diego. (2000, April 18). UCSD Scientists Identify Genes Controlling Seed Dispersal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000417100652.htm
University Of California, San Diego. "UCSD Scientists Identify Genes Controlling Seed Dispersal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000417100652.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Lamb are teaching the world about animal conservation and friendship. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has the adorable video! Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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