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Hoe to regulate the activity of plant hormones

Plant researcher Tobias Sieberer of the Max F. Perutz Laboratories of the University of Vienna works on signal transduction of hormones called strigolactones. Within his search for chemical substances to influence the activity of this pathway, he is establishing a high-throughput approach to test thousands of different chemical compounds. The project is funded by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF).

Strigolactones are plant hormones, which were first discovered in crop plants during the infection with the parasitic plant Striga. Only plants which produce strigolactones were infected with the parasite resulting in a significant reduction of vigour. Moreover, this signalling pathway plays also an important role in plants to initiate symbiotic interactions with mycorrhiza fungi to enhance the absorption of nutrients from the soil.

The third hormonal effect known so far is an influence on shoot branching. If strigolactones are inactivated in experiments, the number of branches is increased. A means to manipulate these three known hormonal effects would have a strong potential for agricultural applications. Particularly in countries with food shortage parasite infection might be diminished. Moreover the rate of shoot branching is an important breeding trait, which affects the quantity and quality of crop harvest as well as the technical effort in cultivation techniques.

by S. C.
15 august 2009, Technical Area > Science News