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The secret of short stems
Date:11/12/2013

This news release is available in German.

The normal height to which plants grow is a critical trait. In the wild Arabidopsis thaliana uses the same genetic changes in the biosynthesis of the growth factor gibberellin to cut its size in half as found in semi-dwarf varieties of rice and barley that have been bred by people. When expressing the same phenotype, various plant species apparently fall back on the same genes in their genotype. There must therefore be so-called "hot spots" whose repeated mutation produces the same traits that are beneficial in some conditions.

Long-stem plants may well be a splendorous in flowerbeds. However, long stalks in a grain field present a danger to the yield. Tall rice or barley varieties buckle over too easily under the load of their heavy panicles or ears. During the green revolution in the 1960s, numerous high-yield varieties with half the normal height were produced for agriculture in developing countries. Many of the rice and barley varieties owe their short stature to a gibberellin deficiency. Besides linear growth, this plant growth factor promotes seed germination and the development of the blossoms. The genetic changes in the semi-dwarf rice and barley varieties of the green revolution prevent a final step in the biosynthesis of gibberellin. The mutated gene carries the cryptic name GA20ox1.

Maarten Koornneef and his colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne have now examined whether Arabidopsis plants in the wild that grow to only half the height as other members of their same species also have a mutated GA20ox1 allele as the short rice and barley varieties of the green revolution do. "We would like to know whether the same genetic causes are found for the same
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Contact: Dr. Maarten Koornneef
koornneef@mpipz.mpg.de
49-221-506-2410
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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