But that's not what happened.
"These plants knew that the last step of phenylalanine production was down and slowed the first steps," Dudareva said.
Maeda said the plant created some sort of feedback mechanism that slowed down the entry point of the shikimate pathway.
Dudareva and Maeda wanted to see what would happen if they forced the shikimate pathway to function, so they gave the petunias shikimic acid. The plants were flooded with the upstream compounds as expected, but since they could not use the usual arogenate pathway to convert them to phenylalanine, they used another path that scientists had only theorized existed.
"What this tells us is this other pathway could be active under certain conditions," Dudareva said.
Understanding how the pathways work is a first step in finding ways to increase phenylalanine for boosting nutritional values of foods, or decreasing it, which may help in biofuel production.
Dudareva and Maeda will next try to determine how the plant creates feedback to the shikimate pathway. Disrupting that feedback could lead to an abundant production of phenylalanine in plants. The National Science Foundation funded the research.
|Contact: Brian Wallheimer|