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Protein power for Jack and the beanstalk
Date:5/17/2010

Plant geneticists are on a determined quest to control auxin, a powerful plant growth hormone. Auxin tells plants how to grow, where to lay down roots, how to make tissues, and how to respond to light and gravity. Knowing how to manipulate auxin could thus have enormous implications for the production of biofuel, making plants grow faster and better.

A recent publication in the journal PLoS Biology from the laboratory of Prof. Shaul Yalovsky of Tel Aviv University's Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants Department describes a special protein, the ICR1, found to control the way auxin moves throughout a plant affecting its development. When this protein is genetically engineered into valuable biofuel crops such as corn, sugarcane or experimentals like switchgrass, farmers can expect to get a far larger yield than what they harvest today, Prof. Yalovsky has found.

In short, much more biofuel for the buck.

"We've found a mechanism that helps the shoot and root talk to each other," says Prof. Yalovsky. "Somehow both parts of the plant need to speak to each other to say: 'Hey down there, I'm up here and there's lots of sun,' or 'I'm down here in the roots and it's too dry.' The plant's shoots need to respond to its environment. We've discovered the mechanism that helps auxin do its job."

Putting energy into sugar

Auxin is considered the most important plant hormone for plant growth and root growth. Prof. Yalovsky explains that knowing how to manipulate it can lead to much bigger yields of non-food crops, like those needed for biofuel. Efficiency is now a limiting factor in biofuel production, and scientists are looking for anything that can produce biofuel in the same amounts as the production of traditional fossil-based fuels.

The ICR1 protein that Prof. Yalovsky has isolated works together with a group of proteins called ROPs, which his lab also isolated in previous research. Together, thi
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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