Navigation Links
VAI researchers find long awaited key to creating drought resistant crops
Date:12/3/2009

Grand Rapids, Mich. (Dec. 3, 2009) Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) researchers have determined precisely how the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) works at the molecular level to help plants respond to environmental stresses such as drought and cold. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help engineer crops that thrive in harsh environments around the world and combat global food shortages. The findings could also have implications for stress disorders in humans.

VARI scientists have determined the structure of the receptors that plants use to sense ABA, a hormone that keeps seeds dormant and keeps buds from sprouting until the climate is right. Locating these receptors and understanding how they work is a key finding one that has eluded researchers for nearly a half-century. This discovery is crucial to understanding how plants respond when they are under stress from extreme temperatures or lack of water.

"The plant community has been waiting for this discovery for many years," said VARI Research Scientist Karsten Melcher, Ph.D., one of the lead authors of the study. "It could have major effects on nutrition and crop yields, especially as fresh water sources become scarcer."

"The work by Dr. Xu and his colleagues, published in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, will undoubtedly become known as an historic defining moment in our understanding of the mode of action of the important plant hormone abscisic acid," said Grand Valley State University Plant Development Biologist Sheila A. Blackman, Ph.D. "They show how the signaling molecule and its receptor initiate a cascade of events that ultimately affects the expression of genes that are critical for a plant's survival under harsh conditions. This work has enormous implications for global food supply."

Melcher works in the VARI Laboratory of Structural Biology led by Distinguished Scientific Investigator H. Eric Xu, Ph.D. The lab began studying abscisic acid signaling in March this year because a proposed ABA receptor was reported to be a member of G-protein coupled receptors, a group of proteins that the lab studies. More than 50% of all drugs on the market target these proteins, but it has been extremely difficult to determine their atomic structure.

Xu's laboratory uses a technique known as X-ray crystallography to determine exactly how and why the drug compounds work in molecular detail, which can then help drug developers engineer more potent drugs that have fewer unwanted side effects.

Although it later resulted that the abscisic acid receptors were found to be members of another protein family, Xu's lab continued their studies on the newly identified ABA receptors. Their findings could help to develop crops that grow in drought, cold, salt water environments, and other harsh conditions, perhaps aiding in stemming or reversing food shortages around the world. Additionally, proteins central to ABA sensing are related to human proteins involved in cellular stress responses and may have implications for stress disorders in humans.

"Proteins with similarities to plant ABA receptors are also found in humans," said Xu. "Further studies in this area could reveal important implications for people with stress disorders."

The lab worked with specialists in plant biology at other institutions to validate the data, including the National Center for Plant Gene Research in Beijing, China, the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California at Riverside, the Center for Plant Stress Genomics and Technology at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, and the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"A finding of this importance helps demonstrate how discoveries at the molecular level in plants can have profound implications for the diseases of humans." said VARI President and Research Director Dr. Jeffrey Trent. "Remarkably Dr. Xu's findings (made in only a few short months) will open a decade of research on both plants and man. From a key role in the ripening of fruit through increased understanding of how stress affects a myriad of diseases in man this finding starts a new chapter in plant and animal biology."


'/>"/>

Contact: Joe GAvan
616-234-5390
Van Andel Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. UGA researchers lead team in discovery involving devastating freshwater fish parasite, Ich
2. Nervy research: Researchers take initial look at ion channels in a model system
3. Yerkes researchers create first transgenic prairie voles
4. North Pole wolf emails locations to researchers
5. Shape shifters: Researchers create new breed of antennas
6. Clemson researchers receive EPA grant to study carbon emission storage
7. Researchers discover biological basis of bacterial immune system
8. Researchers establish common seasonal pattern among bacterial communities in Arctic rivers
9. Racial disparity in colon cancer survival not easily explained, UAB researchers say
10. Researchers begin to decipher metabolism of sexual assault drug
11. Texas A&M Researchers Examine How Viruses Destroy Bacteria
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/11/2017)... April 11, 2017 Crossmatch®, a globally-recognized ... solutions, today announced that it has been awarded ... Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop next-generation Presentation Attack ... "Innovation has been a driving force within ... will allow us to innovate and develop new ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... SEATTLE , April 5, 2017  The Allen ... the Allen Cell Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic ... large-scale 3D imaging data, the first application of deep ... edited human stem cell lines and a growing suite ... the platform for these and future publicly available resources ...
(Date:3/30/2017)...  On April 6-7, 2017, Sequencing.com will host the ... hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in Redmond, Washington ... developing health and wellness apps that provide a unique, ... is the first hackathon for personal genomics and ... in the genomics, tech and health industries are sending ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... Calif. , Oct. 10, 2017 SomaGenics ... from the NIH to develop RealSeq®-SC (Single Cell), expected ... for profiling small RNAs (including microRNAs) from single cells ... Program highlights the need to accelerate development of approaches ... "New techniques for measuring levels ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... 09, 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer television series will feature 3 ... airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global population estimates nearing ten ... to continue to feed a growing nation. At the same time, many of our ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... and applications consulting for microscopy and surface analysis, Nanoscience Instruments is now ... Analytical offers a broad range of contract analysis services for advanced applications. ...
(Date:10/6/2017)... ... 06, 2017 , ... On Tuesday, October 24th, ABC² (Accelerate ... first-ever adaptive clinical trial for glioblastoma (GBM). The featured speaker will be Dr. ... open to the public, but registration is required. , WHAT: ABC² Brain ...
Breaking Biology Technology: