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Plants cut the mustard for basic discoveries in metabolism
Date:2/5/2013

lso elongates as it reaches for the sun. Together, these two organs allow the plant to more efficiently carry out photosynthesis, which turns light and carbon dioxide into life sustaining food.

The growth of the two parts is controlled by two different metabolic pathways that make two very distinct chemical hormones. Stem growth is triggered by the hormone auxin, while petiole growth is stimulated by the hormone ethylene. Our own bodies use hormones in similar growth pathways, which follow the same complicated metabolic rules.

Zheng and Guo discovered that there is an enzyme, called VAS1, that functions as a canal between the auxin and ethylene pathways. Like the Panama Canal, VAS1 isn't merely a shortcut between two pathways, but a gating mechanism that regulates these two different hormone levels simultaneously, ensuring that different parts of the plant grow in a balanced way and not wildly out of control. With VAS1 in place as a gate, there's no need to wait for genes to turn on and off to make these hormones in a coordinated manner.

These tiny plants have given us a new way of thinking about coordinating metabolism in all species, says Chory. "Evolution is conservative," she explains, "If you find a mechanism in one system, the likelihood is high that you will quickly find it throughout all of nature."

Noel agrees, adding, "We've shown that there needs to be serious re-thinking of the conventional wisdom of how metabolic process are synchronized and how this synchronization fails in disease."


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Contact: Andy Hoang
AHoang@salk.edu
619-861-5811
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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