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Evolution coup: Study reveals how plants protect their genes
Date:9/10/2009

This release is available in French.

Montreal, September 10, 2009 Unlike animals and humans, plants can't run and hide when exposed to stressful environmental conditions. So how do plants survive? A new Universit de Montral study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found a key mechanism that enables plants to keep dangerous gene alterations in check to ensure their continued existence.

"We've discovered a new pathway that plants use to protect their genes against dangerous alterations that could also allow some useful mutations to occur," says Normand Brisson, a Universit de Montral biochemistry professor who made his discovery with graduate students Alexandre Marchal and Jean-Sbastien Parent.

"Such mutations played an important role in the evolution of plants with high nutritional value, resistance to disease and harsh climate that are so important to modern agriculture," adds Dr. Brisson. "Our results open new research avenues for the study of similar mechanisms of gene repair in humans that might be important for human evolution, our responses to stress and the prevention of devastating diseases."

How do plant genes mutate?

All living things are constantly exposed to stressors that can provoke gene mutations, yet if uncorrected such mutations can have disastrous consequences such as the development of cancers in humans or cell resistance to cancer-fighting drugs.

Cells have evolved a battery of mechanisms to correct mutations, including recently discovered strategies that can also modify the number of copies of individual genes. These corrective mechanisms have attracted a lot of scientific interest since they could play a key role in species evolution. For example, while chimps and humans have almost identical genes, differences present in the
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Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
sylvain-jacques.desjardins@umontreal.ca
514-343-7593
University of Montreal
Source:Eurekalert

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