Manipulating plants' circadian clock may make all-season crops possible

Sep 01, 2011

Yale University researchers have identified a key genetic gear that keeps the circadian clock of plants ticking, a finding that could have broad implications for global agriculture.

The research appears in the Sept. 2 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

"Farmers are limited by the seasons, but by understanding the circadian rhythm of plants, which controls basic functions such as and flowering, we might be able to engineer plants that can grow in different seasons and places than is currently possible," said Xing Wang Deng, the Daniel C. Eaton Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and at Yale and senior author of the paper.

The is the internal timekeeper found in almost all organisms that helps synchronize biological processes with day and night. In plants, this clock is crucial for adjusting growth to both time and day and to the seasons.

The clock operates through the cooperative relationship between "morning" genes and "evening" genes. Proteins encoded by the morning genes suppress evening genes at daybreak, but by nightfall levels of these proteins drop and evening genes are activated. Intriguingly, these evening genes are necessary to turn on morning genes completing the 24-hour cycle.

The Yale research solved one of the last remaining mysteries in this process when they identified the gene DET1 as crucial in helping to suppress expression of the evening genes in the circadian cycle.

"Plants that make less DET1 have a faster clock and they take less time to flower," said lead author On Sun Lau, a former Yale graduate student who is now at Stanford University. "Knowing the components of the plant's circadian clock and their roles would assist in the selection or generation of valuable traits in crop and ."

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that_guy
not rated yet Sep 01, 2011
Not particularly fond of the title. Most crops have specific seasons due to the particular conditions that they are adapted to grow in. The circadian rhythm of these crops is just one factor the plants use to ensure that they grow and flower during a period of time when conditions are conducive to the plant successfully flowering and growing...

The main place this would benefit is a greenhouse.

Adding a little flexibility to planting times will certainly help the farmers manage their crops better, but currently, droughts and freezes can have a considerably bigger effect on the farmer's job than a particular plant's preference for day and night.

If you can make a plant grow well and self pollinate when it is 20 degrees out, then we can call it 'all season'