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Young plant's natural defenses amount to more than just its seed

d, until last September, a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller. "Now, we have identified AFP as being the protein responsible for getting rid of ABI5.

"In other words, ABI5 triggers the delay and AFP helps terminate it," says Lopez-Molina.

In the United States and all over the world, drought increasingly plagues farmlands, resulting in decreased food productivity. By better understanding how plants naturally tolerate drought and other environmental stressors, Chua and colleagues hope to genetically enhance this ability in crop plants.

In addition, the latest research may lead to improvements in methods for seed storage. In every bag of stored seeds, a certain percentage goes to waste because some seeds prematurely germinate and begin to grow - a costly loss for poor, developing countries. Because the Rockefeller scientists now know the identity of the molecular wardens in charge of this developmental delay, it may be possible to genetically control when plants initiate growth, and save a lot of otherwise squandered seeds.

Other scientists involved in this research include co-author and equal contributor Sbastien Mongrand, Ph.D., another former postdoctoral associate at Rockefeller who is now at Centre National de la Rcherche Scientifique/Universit Bordeaux 2, France; and Natsuko Kinoshita, a former guest student at Rockefeller now studying at City University of New York (CUNY). Lopez-Molina has joined the faculty of CUNY, where he is starting his own plant biology laboratory.

A pause before blossoming

The Rockefeller researchers first uncovered this novel developmental arrest in 2001 while studying abscisic acid (ABA), the primary plant hormone responsible for safeguarding both newborn and adult plants against environmental stress. In newborns, ABA blocks premature growth; in adults, it actively regulates a plant's response to stress, for example by closing a plant's pores in times of drought to prevent the "s
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Contact: Whitney Clavin
clavinw@rockefeller.edu
212-327-7250
Rockefeller University
31-Jan-2003


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