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Plants that grow more slowly stay fresh longer. In their study now published in PLoS Biology, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tbingen have shown that certain small sections of genes, so-called microRNAs, coordinate growth and aging processes in plants. These microRNAs inhibit certain regulators, known as TCP transcription factors. These transcription factors in turn influence the production of jasmonic acid, a plant hormone. The higher the number of microRNAs present, the lower the number of transcription factors that are active, and the smaller the amount of jasmonic acid, which is produced by the plant. The plant therefore ages more slowly, as this hormone is important for the plant's aging processes. The researchers have succeeded for the first time in describing the antagonistic regulation of growth and aging in plants. Since the quantity of microRNAs in the plants can be controlled by genetic methods, it may be possible in future to cultivate plants that live longer and grow faster. (PLoS Biology, September 23, 2008)
MicroRNAs are short, single-strand sections of genes that regulate other genes. They do this by binding to complementary sections of the genetic material, thus preventing them from being read and implemented in genetic products. In plants, microRNAs mainly inhibit other regulators, so-called transcription factors. These factors can switch genes on or off by binding to DNA sections, thus activating or blocking them so that either too many or too few proteins are formed. Since proteins control metabolic processes, an imbalance leads to more or less clearly visible changes to the plant.
The scientists in Prof. Detlef Weigel's department at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology have investigated the effects that the transcription fact
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