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

weating" out of much-needed water.

At the time, scientists believed that ABA's specific job in newborns was to stall germination until conditions became ripe for growth. But the Rockefeller team changed this notion when they discovered that the hormone was in fact better at keeping young plants in an arrested state of development for up to 30 days - after they had left the comfort of their seeds.

Further exploring this early growth arrest, the researchers hit upon the key protein behind it, called ABI5. They showed that for ABA to be able to pause growth, ABI5 must be present.

"We found that mutant plants lacking ABI5 could not arrest growth in response to drought and subsequently died, whereas normal plants survived under the same conditions," says Lopez-Molina.

Together, these experiments suggest that ABA, through the activity of ABI5, gives newborn plants a second opportunity to hold off on growth until auspicious conditions arise.

Devious partner

In the new Genes & Development paper, the story continues to unfold with the discovery of AFP, a novel ABI5-interacting protein. After the scientists had characterized the role of ABI5 in the developmental arrest, they set out to find proteins that regulate ABI5. Using a technique called the "yeast two-hybrid screen," they fished out a novel protein-binding partner of ABI5, and later named it AFP for "ABI five-binding protein."

The researchers then discovered that when they presented a newly germinated plant with high amounts of ABA, AFP levels rose in tandem with those of ABI5. In addition, mutant plants lacking AFP showed abnormally high ABI5 protein levels, resulting in hypersensitivity to ABA. This provided evidence that AFP negatively regulates ABI5 in normal plants. Further studies with enzymes called "proteasome inhibitors" indicated that AFP promotes the "ubiquitination" of ABI5; in basic terms this means that AFP signals the cell to chop up ABI5
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Contact: Whitney Clavin
clavinw@rockefeller.edu
212-327-7250
Rockefeller University
31-Jan-2003


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