Athens, Ga. University of Georgia scientists looking to understand the genetic mechanisms of plant defense and growth have found for the first time in plants an inverse relationship between gene duplication and alternative splicing. The finding has implications for diversity not only in plants, but in animals and humans.
The research will be published online in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This inverse relationship has been previously reported in animals," said University of Georgia professor and senior author Chung-Jui Tsai. "And in animal genes, when there's a single copy, more often than not you see a higher degree of alternative splicing."
Alternative splicing is the molecular process that allows a single gene to produce many gene products or proteins with potentially different functions. It is an important regulatory mechanism for determining diversity in all plants and animals.
Tsai is W.N. Haynes Professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and professor of genetics, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, at UGA.
Tsai's team set out to investigate the role of a gene that encodes for the enzyme isochorismate synthase (ICS), which has two distinct functions: synthesis of vitamin K for photosynthesis, the conversion of light to energy, and synthesis of salicylic acid, an aspirin-like compound found naturally in most plants that is important for their resistance to diseases. In Arabidopsis, a tiny flowering annual plant that is widely used as a model organism for studying plants, salicylic acid is derived primarily from ICS. The investigators wanted to know the role of the ICS gene in fast-growing and economically important Populus tree species.
The PNAS authors took their cues from Arabidopsis. In this tiny weed, there are two copies of the ICS gene, while there is only one copy of the gene in Pop
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University of Georgia