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Model plant misled scientists about multicellular growth
Date:10/22/2013

Scientists have misunderstood one of the most fundamental processes in the life of plants because they have been looking at the wrong flower, according to University of Leeds researchers.

Arabidopsis thalianaalso known as thale cress or mouse-ear cressgrows abundantly in cracks in pavements all over Europe and Asia, but the small white flower leads a second life as the lab rat of the plant world.

It has become the dominant "model plant" in genetics research because of its simple genetics and ease of use in a research environment. Thousands of trays of the humble weed are cultivated in laboratories across the world, but it turns out they may actually contain a rather oddball plant.

A study by researchers at the University of Leeds found that Arabidopsis thaliana was exceptional in not having a "censorship" protein called SMG1.

SMG1 was known to play a vital role in the growth of animals as multicellular organisms, but scientists thought that plants built their complex life fundamentally differently. That conclusion, it turns out, was built on a dummy sold by Arabidopsis thaliana.

Professor Brendan Davies from the University of Leeds' School of Biology, who led the study, said: "Everybody thought that this protein was only in animals. They thought that because, basically, most of the world studies one plant: Arabidopsis thaliana."

Gene expressionthe process by which the information from a genome is converted into the differentiated cells that make up complex liferelies on processes that turn genes on, when their genetic messages are required, and off when they are not.

"Switching genes on and off is really what life is about. If you can't do that, you can't have life," said Professor Davies. "There are various ways this is done, but one way in more complex life such as animals and plants is through a sort of 'censorship' process. The system looks at the messages that c
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Contact: c.j.bunting@leeds.ac.uk
c.j.bunting@leeds.ac.uk
0044-113-343-2049
University of Leeds
Source:Eurekalert  

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