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Ozone found to have direct effect on genes linked with plants' aging

Penn State research has shown, for the first time, that ozone, a major smog constituent, has a direct effect on the genes associated with the aging process in plants.

Dr. Jennifer Miller, who produced the finding as part of her doctoral thesis, says, "Plant scientists have long known that ozone accelerates the process through which the leaves of a plant age, eventually die and drop. However, our work provides the first evidence that the genetic program that controls the aging process is directly affected by ozone exposure."

She notes that the findings may help other researchers find a way to bolster plants' resistance to ozone, a critical component of smog, which causes an estimated $3 billion in agricultural losses in the United States each year.

Miller detailed her findings in her doctoral dissertation, "Scenescence-Associated Gene Expression in Ozone-Stressed Arabidopsis Leaves," which she defended in June. She is currently an assistant professor of biology at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kansas. Some of her findings were also detailed earlier in a paper, Senescence-Associated Gene Expression during Ozone-Induced Leaf Senescence in Arabidopsis, published in the journal Plant Physiology. Co-authors are Dr. Richard N. Arteca, professor of horticulture and plant physiology, and Dr. Eva J. Pell, the Steimer professor of agricultural sciences, who was Miller's thesis adviser.

Miller conducted her experiments with Arabidopsis, a plant with a short 6 to 8 week life span and a small gene pool that is often used in plant studies. In one experiment, she grew the plants from seed and exposed one group of plants to low levels of ozone for six hours a day while leaving another group untreated.

"The ozone treatment was higher than ambient levels but not high enough to cause visible signs of damage immediately following the exposure. Ozone concentrations in polluted areas can reach the levels used in thes
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Contact: Barbara Hale
bah@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
30-Jul-2000


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