While such details may seem abstract, these basic biochemical insights are fundamental to the development of better crops and therapies for disease, including the breeding of plants more adapted to challenging environments and the discovery of new medicines, explains biochemist Noel, holder of the Arthur and Julie Woodrow Chair.
"It is essential to understand what steps bodies, plant or animal, take to construct and process chemical information in order to produce more food and treat metabolic diseases," he says.
Chory, Noel and Salk post-doctoral researchers Zuyu Zheng and Yongxia Guo, co-first authors on the paper, made their discovery by studying thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a small plant with tiny white flowers that grows wild throughout much of the world. Thale cress has become a profoundly important research model to scientists studying genetics and metabolism, because it grows to maturity in only six weeks and its genes can be quickly tested for what instructions they give the plant. This allows researchers to rapidly learn what genes regulate the production of proteins and enzymes essential to metabolism. This basic information can then translate into better crop plants and disease treatments.
When the top of a plant is shaded, two different parts of the plant quickly adjust their growth rate so the plant can compete for sunlight. The stem or trunk of the plant will rapidly grow longer, often in only a few hours, in an attempt to avoid being trapped in shade. Another part, the tissue known as the "petiole," which connects a leaf to the stem, a
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