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Purdue genetic discovery may aid plants and human medicine

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Findings that two mutated genes alter plant growth and development could result in improved plants and enhanced cancer treatments, according to Purdue University researchers.

In a paper published in Thursday's (6/26) issue of Nature, the scientists report that these abnormal, or mutant plants are able to reorient themselves in response to light and gravity more rapidly than normal, or "wild type," plants. Apparently plants behave differently in accordance with how a growth hormone moves through them. Because the two genes affecting transport of the hormone are related to human genes that impact the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, controlling these genes may allow physicians to better determine the dosage of cancer drugs.

"We now know that if we can modify these genes, we can control the growth of the plant in very specific regions," said Angus Murphy, assistant professor of horticulture and senior author of the paper. "This means we might be able to change the shape of upper portions of a plant or develop a more robust root system."

These genes are related to multidrug resistance (MDR) genes in humans. MDR genes transport anticancer drugs out of cells, rendering the treatment less effective. The genes are designated with capital letters, while the mutated, or altered, genes are designated with small letters (in this case, mdr). Murphy's research group found and studied the altered genes in the commonly used experimental plant, Arabidopsis(pronounced: Ah-rob-ah-dop-sis).

The Arabidopsis mdr mutations disrupt the accumulation of a protein, PIN1, at the base of cells in the stems of plant embryos, Murphy said. Because PIN1 is an essential part of the system that transports the growth hormone auxin, dislocation of the protein impairs flow of the hormone through the plant. This alters how the plants develop and respond to factors such as light and gravity.

Relocation of PIN1 and selective disruption of a
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Contact: Susan A. Steeves
ssteeves@purdue.edu
765-496-7481
Purdue University
25-Jun-2003


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