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CIHR news: U of S scientists find plant gene that affects stress resistance
Date:1/25/2008

A University of Saskatchewan team of scientists has isolated a gene that has never before been identified in helping plants to resist stress.

The studypublished this month in the top-ranked plant journal The Plant Cellcould pave the way for development of agricultural and forestry crops that are more tolerant to environmental stresses such as ultra-violet light and other types of radiation.

Our next step is to see if plant genes weve isolated also play a similar role in fighting infections, said U of S microbiologist Wei Xiao. In previous research, our team and others have shown that similar genes in human and animal cells play an important role in protection against both viral and bacterial infections.

In an unusual collaboration, Xiao teamed up with U of S biochemist Hong Wang, two post-doctoral fellows and three graduate students on the study. Doctoral student Rui Wen is the lead author on the paper.

Using Arabidopsis, a widely accepted research model plant closely related to canola, the team cloned and characterized four genes suspected of playing a role in the plants stress responses. The team found that when plants were subjected to a DNA-damaging stressor, the plants in which one of the four genes had been turned off produced seedlings that grew slower and often died, compared with a control group.

This tells us that these genes likely play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of the plant and protecting the plant from stress, said Xiao.

The next step is to look at whether turning on or off any of the other three genes will affect the plants resistance to environmental stresses, including viral and bacterial infections.

Xiaos previous research used cultured mammalian cells to study cancer and immunity. But since deletion of genes in living mammals would cause the embryos to die, the team turned to the plant model.

This study demonstrates for the first time that
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Contact: Kathryn Warden
kathryn.warden@usask.ca
306-966-2506
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Source:Eurekalert

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