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Key gene allows plants to survive drought

The research team, led by Sean Cutler of the University of California, Riverside, has identified the receptor of the key hormone in stress protection called abscisic acid (ABA). Under stress, plants increase their ABA levels, which help them survive a drought through a process not fully understood. The area of ABA receptors has been a highly controversial topic in the field of plant biology that has involved retractions of scientific papers as well as the publication of papers of questionable significance.

A receptor is a protein molecule in a cell to which mobile signaling molecules may attach. Usually at the top of a signaling pathway, the receptor functions like a boss relaying orders to the team below that then executes particular decisions in the cell. "Scientists have been trying to solve the ABA receptor problem for more than 20 years, and claims for ABA receptors are not easily received by the scientific community," says Cutler.

This team used a new approach called chemical genomics to identifying a synthetic chemical, designated pyrabactin, which specifically activates an ABA receptor in the model laboratory plant Arabidopsis. With pyrabactin in hand it was now possible to directly identify the ABA receptor.

by S. C.
25 may 2009, Technical Area > Science News

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