Navigation Links
VAI researchers find long awaited key to creating drought resistant crops
Date:12/3/2009

Grand Rapids, Mich. (Dec. 3, 2009) Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) researchers have determined precisely how the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) works at the molecular level to help plants respond to environmental stresses such as drought and cold. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help engineer crops that thrive in harsh environments around the world and combat global food shortages. The findings could also have implications for stress disorders in humans.

VARI scientists have determined the structure of the receptors that plants use to sense ABA, a hormone that keeps seeds dormant and keeps buds from sprouting until the climate is right. Locating these receptors and understanding how they work is a key finding one that has eluded researchers for nearly a half-century. This discovery is crucial to understanding how plants respond when they are under stress from extreme temperatures or lack of water.

"The plant community has been waiting for this discovery for many years," said VARI Research Scientist Karsten Melcher, Ph.D., one of the lead authors of the study. "It could have major effects on nutrition and crop yields, especially as fresh water sources become scarcer."

"The work by Dr. Xu and his colleagues, published in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, will undoubtedly become known as an historic defining moment in our understanding of the mode of action of the important plant hormone abscisic acid," said Grand Valley State University Plant Development Biologist Sheila A. Blackman, Ph.D. "They show how the signaling molecule and its receptor initiate a cascade of events that ultimately affects the expression of genes that are critical for a plant's survival under harsh conditions. This work has enormous implications for global food supply."

Melcher works in the VARI Laboratory of Structural Biology led by Distinguished Scientific Investigator H. Eric Xu, Ph.D. The lab began studying abscisic acid signaling in March this year because a proposed ABA receptor was reported to be a member of G-protein coupled receptors, a group of proteins that the lab studies. More than 50% of all drugs on the market target these proteins, but it has been extremely difficult to determine their atomic structure.

Xu's laboratory uses a technique known as X-ray crystallography to determine exactly how and why the drug compounds work in molecular detail, which can then help drug developers engineer more potent drugs that have fewer unwanted side effects.

Although it later resulted that the abscisic acid receptors were found to be members of another protein family, Xu's lab continued their studies on the newly identified ABA receptors. Their findings could help to develop crops that grow in drought, cold, salt water environments, and other harsh conditions, perhaps aiding in stemming or reversing food shortages around the world. Additionally, proteins central to ABA sensing are related to human proteins involved in cellular stress responses and may have implications for stress disorders in humans.

"Proteins with similarities to plant ABA receptors are also found in humans," said Xu. "Further studies in this area could reveal important implications for people with stress disorders."

The lab worked with specialists in plant biology at other institutions to validate the data, including the National Center for Plant Gene Research in Beijing, China, the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California at Riverside, the Center for Plant Stress Genomics and Technology at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, and the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"A finding of this importance helps demonstrate how discoveries at the molecular level in plants can have profound implications for the diseases of humans." said VARI President and Research Director Dr. Jeffrey Trent. "Remarkably Dr. Xu's findings (made in only a few short months) will open a decade of research on both plants and man. From a key role in the ripening of fruit through increased understanding of how stress affects a myriad of diseases in man this finding starts a new chapter in plant and animal biology."


'/>"/>

Contact: Joe GAvan
616-234-5390
Van Andel Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. UGA researchers lead team in discovery involving devastating freshwater fish parasite, Ich
2. Nervy research: Researchers take initial look at ion channels in a model system
3. Yerkes researchers create first transgenic prairie voles
4. North Pole wolf emails locations to researchers
5. Shape shifters: Researchers create new breed of antennas
6. Clemson researchers receive EPA grant to study carbon emission storage
7. Researchers discover biological basis of bacterial immune system
8. Researchers establish common seasonal pattern among bacterial communities in Arctic rivers
9. Racial disparity in colon cancer survival not easily explained, UAB researchers say
10. Researchers begin to decipher metabolism of sexual assault drug
11. Texas A&M Researchers Examine How Viruses Destroy Bacteria
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/4/2016)... , Feb. 4, 2016 The field ... one of the most popular hubs of the ... and other huge studies of human microbiota, have ... few years, the microbiome space has literally exploded ... research. This report focuses on biomedical aspects ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... Calif. , Feb. 3, 2016 Vigilant ... Police Department in Missouri ... license plate reader (LPR) data from Vigilant Solutions. ... hit-and-run case in which the victim was walking out of a convenience ... parking space next to his vehicle, striking his vehicle ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... , Feb. 2, 2016 This BCC ... bioinformatic market by reviewing the recent advances in ... that drive the field forward. Includes forecast through ... Identify the challenges and opportunities that exist in ... software solution developers, as well as IT and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)... , Feb.10, 2016 ASAE is introducing a ... Management Companies (AMC) the option of joining or renewing ... fee determined by staff size, every employee in any ... ASAE and reap all available member benefits.   ... new organizational membership options will allow organizations of any ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016  Allergan plc (NYSE: AGN ) a ... Saunders , Allergan,s CEO and President, will be featured ... at the RBC Capital Markets Healthcare Conference on Tuesday, ... New York Palace Hotel in New York, ... and can be accessed on Allergan,s Investor Relations web ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... HOLLOWAY AMERICA, ... Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) Rocky Mountain Chapter 21st Annual Vendor Exhibition on Thursday, February ... than 100 tables for its annual event, which will run from 3:00 p.m. ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... PatientCrossroads ... on the secure online PatientCrossroads platform, has exceeded both its one-year and overall ... the PROMPT study, which seeks to advance understanding of the hereditary risks for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: