New study provides insights into plant evolution

Mar 01, 2013

New research has uncovered a mechanism that regulates the reproduction of plants, providing a possible tool for engineering higher yielding crops.

In a study published today in Science, researchers from Monash University and in Japan and the US, identified for the first time a particular gene that regulates the transition between stages of the in .

Professor John Bowman, of the Monash School of said plants, in contrast to animals, take different forms in alternating generations - one with one set of and one with two sets.

"In animals, the bodies we think of are our diploid bodies - where each cell has two sets of DNA. The haploid phase of our life cycle consists of only eggs if we are female and sperm if we are male. In contrast, plants have large complex bodies in both haploid and diploid generations," Professor Bowman said.

These two plant bodies often have such different characteristics that until the mid-1800s, when better allowed further research, they were sometimes thought to be separate species.

Professor Bowman and Dr Keiko Sakakibara, formerly of the Monash School of Biological Sciences and now at Hiroshima University, removed a gene, known as KNOX2 from moss. They found that this caused the diploid generation to develop as if it was a haploid, a phenomenon termed apospory. The equivalent mutations in humans would be if our entire bodies were transformed into either eggs or sperm.

"Our study provides insights into how land plants evolved two complex generations, strongly supporting one theory put forward at the beginning of last century proposing that the complex diploid body was a novel evolutionary invention", Professor Bowman said.

While Professor Bowman's laboratory in the School of Biological Sciences is focused on basic research exploring the evolution and development of land plants, he said there were possible applications for the results as in the gene cause the plant to skip a generation.

One goal in agriculture is apomixis, where a plant produces seeds clonally by skipping the haploid generation and thereby maintaining the characteristics, such as a high yielding hybrid, of the mother plant. Apomixis would mean with desirable qualities could be produced more easily and cheaply.

"Gaining a better understanding of the molecular basis of plant reproduction and the regulations of the alternation of generations could provide tools to engineer apomixis - a breakthrough that would be highly beneficial, especially in developing countries," Professor Bowman said.

Explore further: Game theory analysis shows how evolution favors cooperation's collapse

Related Stories

Plants cloned as seeds

Feb 17, 2011

Plants have for the first time been cloned as seeds. The research by aUC Davis plant scientists and their international collaborators, published Feb. 18 in the journal Science, is a major step towards making hybrid crop p ...

Chance Observation Leads to Plant Breeding Breakthrough

Mar 24, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A reliable method for producing plants that carry genetic material from only one of their parents has been discovered by plant biologists at UC Davis. The technique, to be published March 25 in the journal ...

Recommended for you

Brain folding

3 minutes ago

The neocortex is the part of the brain that enables us to speak, dream, or think. The underlying mechanism that led to the expansion of this brain region during evolution, however, is not yet understood. ...

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

45 minutes ago

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Precise measurements of microbial ecosystems

1 hour ago

The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) has succeeded for the first time in describing the complex relationships within an ecosystem in unprecedented detail. For their work, carried out in collaboration ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.