Now, that vision of suburban bliss -- and more -- seems plausible as scientists have mapped a critical hormone signaling pathway that regulates the stature of plants. In addition to lawns that rarely require mowing, the finding could also enable the development of sturdier, more fruitful crop plants such as rice, wheat, soybeans, and corn.
In a paper published in the May 4, 2006, issue of the journal Nature, Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists report they have deciphered the signaling pathway for a key class of steroid hormones that regulates growth and development in plants.
"By manipulating the steroid pathwaywe think we can regulate plant stature and yield," said Joanne Chory, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the senior author of the new report.
Manipulation of plant stature has been a longstanding goal in horticulture, agronomy, and forestry. The ability to precisely control plant size would have broad implications for everything from urban forestry to crop and garden plant development. Beyond perpetually short grass, trees could be made more compact for better growth in crowded cities, and berry bushes could be made taller for ease of harvesting.
To chart the pathway, Chory and colleague Grgory Vert of the Salk Institute's Plant Biology Laboratory examined the molecular influence of a family of plant hormones known as brassinosteroids. Scientists have found brassinosteroids in all plants where they have looked for them. As critical chemical messengers of plant development, they are found in low levels in virtually all plant cells, including seeds, flowers, roots, leaves, stems, pollen, and young vegetative tissue.
"Without them, plants are tiny dwarves, with reduced vasculature and roots, and are infertile," C
Contact: Jennifer Michalowski
Howard Hughes Medical Institute