Researchers identify an important gene for a healthy, nutritious plant

Jul 30, 2008

Dartmouth researchers identify an important gene for a healthy, nutritious plant. The research paper, published with colleagues from Colorado State University and the University of South Carolina, appeared in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science during the week of July 21.

"There's a lot of attention today on global food shortages," says Mary Lou Guerinot, the principal investigator on the study and one of the authors of the paper. "We've found a gene that is key for proper chloroplast function. This finding might some day help scientists develop plants that grow better and can serve as more nutritious food."

During photosynthesis, chloroplasts are the subcellular compartment used by plant cells to convert light energy to sugars, fueling the plant. This process in the chloroplasts requires iron, and up to 90 percent of the iron in leaf cells is located in chloroplasts.

In this study, Guerinot and her colleagues provide molecular evidence that FRO7, a gene in the FRO family, is involved in chloroplast iron acquisition and is required for efficient photosynthesis. The FRO family is a group of proteins that transfers electrons from ferric iron (Fe3+) to reduce it to another kind of iron (Fe2+). This same lab showed that this process (reduction of iron) was essential for plants to take up iron into the roots from the soil in a study published in 1999 in Nature.

"We have now shown that an analogous process is required for proper chloroplast function," says Guerinot. "Moreover, without FRO7, plants sown in iron deficient soil died as young seedlings. Our findings are of particular interest because how iron gets into chloroplasts has not been well understood despite the significance of iron in chloroplasts."

Guerinot explains that one-third of the soil worldwide is iron deficient, so it is important to understand how plants acquire iron, allocate iron to different parts of the plant and within the cell, and survive under iron limiting conditions. This is not only critical to improve plant growth and crop yields but also to improve human nutrition. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world today and most people get their iron from eating plants.

"Enriching crops with mineral and vitamin nutrients will provide sustainable solutions to malnutrition," she says.

Source: Dartmouth College

Explore further: New class of insecticides offers safer, more targeted mosquito control

Related Stories

The promise and peril of nanotechnology

Mar 26, 2014

Scientists at Northwestern University have found a way to detect metastatic breast cancer by arranging strands of DNA into spherical shapes and using them to cover a tiny particle of gold, creating a "nano-flare" ...

New cell component important to tea and wine-making

Sep 10, 2013

Scientists have discovered where plants build tannins, complex chemicals used by plants for defence and protection. The source is the tannosome, a newly discovered organelle that is found in most land plants.

Scientists get to the root of ancient case of sour grapes

Dec 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists in Cambridge have discovered that a lowly grape variety grown by peasants - but despised by noblemen - during the Middle Ages was the mother of many of today’s greatest grape ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

5 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

Longer DNA fragments reveal rare species diversity

6 hours ago

A challenge in metagenomics is that the more commonly used sequencing machines generate data in short lengths, while short-read assemblers may not be able to distinguish among multiple occurrences of the ...

Scientists say polar bears won't thrive on land food

6 hours ago

A group of researchers say polar bears forced off melting sea ice will not find enough food to replace their current diet of fat-laden marine mammals such as seals, a conclusion that contradicts studies indicating ...

The vital question: Why is life the way it is?

7 hours ago

The Vital Question: Why is life the way it is? is a new book by Nick Lane that is due out on April 23rd. His question is not one for a static answer but rather one for a series of ever sharper explanations—explanations that a ...

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.