Salt-tolerant gene found in simple plant nothing to sneeze at

Apr 07, 2008

Whether a plant withers unproductively or thrives in salty conditions may now be better understood by biologists. The cellular mechanism that controls salt tolerance has been found in the arabidopsis plant by a Texas AgriLife Research scientist collaborating with an international team.

Complex-N-glycan, a carbohydrate linked to a protein in plant cells, was previously thought to have no helpful function for plant growth and to cause certain allergies in humans, according to Dr. Hisashi Koiwa, lead author of the study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

“This gene has been considered non-essential or even a nuisance,” Koiwa said. “People thought it was an allergen and couldn’t find anything good it was doing in plants. So, it was thought of as not necessary for the growth or development of a plant.”

However, the team discovered that this carbohydrate may, in fact, be responsible for a plants’ ability to contend with salt water.

The team’s finding “significantly clarifies” the role of the gene and could lead to the development of food crops and other plants capable of producing well in areas with salty water, according to the science academy’s journal reviewers.

Almost one-third of nation’s irrigated land and half of the world’s land is salt-affected, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Agriculture Research Service. Salt left in the soil after the water evaporates, the research service notes, means plants don’t grow as well and, therefore, yield less.

The study used arabidopsis, a plant commonly used in labs because it grows quickly and has a relatively simple, well-known genome.

The researchers applied salt to the growing plants and then examined sick plants, or those that appeared salt sensitive.

“We had to study the diseased status of the plant to understand its health,” Koiwa said. “We looked for sick plants in the lab to find out why they were that way.”v

He said the finding may help plant breeders look for this gene as they cross plants in order to develop varieties less affected by salt.

Source: Texas A&M University

Explore further: Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Simple method of binding pollutants in water

17 hours ago

New types of membrane adsorbers remove unwanted particles from water and also, at the same time, dissolved substances such as the hormonally active bis-phenol A or toxic lead. To do this, researchers at the ...

Green solid electrolyte for electrochemical devices

Mar 10, 2015

Researchers from the Faculty of Engineering of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia, have studied the capability of new polymers derived from potato starch as insulators which do not show any remarkable electro activity.

Recommended for you

Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

11 hours ago

EU member states are divided on how to stop the spread of a disease affecting olive trees in Italy that could result in around a million being cut down, officials said Friday.

China starts relocating endangered porpoises: Xinhua

17 hours ago

Chinese authorities on Friday began relocating the country's rare finless porpoise population in a bid to revive a species threatened by pollution, overfishing and heavy traffic in their Yangtze River habitat, ...

A long-standing mystery in membrane traffic solved

18 hours ago

In 2013, James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular machineries for vesicle trafficking, a major transport ...

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.