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Biology articles
The Golden Goose Is Awarded
Salmonella Strain Spreads Alongside HIV
Fair Flu Viruses Closely Matched
Creative Emulsification
Inflammation for Regeneration
Editor's choice in microbiology
Debate Over Stem Cell Effectiveness
Editor's choice in molecular biology
Telomeres Affect Gene Expression
Re-sensitizing Resistant Bacteria
Vitamin C Slays TB Bacteria
Plant scientists, innovators
The First Plant Interactome
Plant RNAs Found in Mammals
Opinion: Beyond the Model
Sweet and Sour Science
Plant RNA Paper Questioned
Flower Barcodes
Microbial Perfume
How Plants Feel
New Databases Harvest a Rich Bounty of Information on Crop Plant Metabolism
Carnegie Institution for Science Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant
Genetically engineered trees could help restore devastated American chestnut
Evolution coup: study reveals how plants protect their genes
  Gene Discovery To Increase Biomass Needed For Green Fuel
Manchester scientists have identified the genes that make plants grow fatter and plan to use their research to increase plant biomass in trees and other species – thus helping meet the need for renewable resources.

“The US has set the ambitious goal of generating a third of all liquid fuel from renewable source by the year 2025. Estimates suggest to reach their goal they would need 1 billion tonnes of biomass, which is a lot,” says Professor Simon Turner, one of the University of Manchester researchers whose BBSRC-funded study is published in Development today (Wednesday 10th February 2010).

“Our work has identified the two genes that make plants grow outwards. The long, thin cells growing down the length of a plant divide outwards, giving that nice radial pattern of characteristic growth rings in trees. So you get a solid ring of wood in the centre surrounded by growing cells. Now we have identified the process by which the cells know how to grow outwards, we hope to find a way of making that plants grow thicker quicker, giving us the increased wood production that could be used for biofuels or other uses.

“And there is an added benefit. There are concerns that the growing of biofuel products competes with essential food production. However, the part of the plant we have studied is the stalk – not the grain – so there will be no competition with food production.”

Professor Turner and Dr Peter Etchells, at the Faculty of Life Sciences, studied the plant Arabidopsis which does not look like a tree but has a similar vascular system, (which carries water and sugar around the plant). They investigated growth in the vascular bundles and found that the genes PXY and CLE41 directed the amount and direction of cell division. Furthermore, they found over-expression of CLE41 caused a greater amount of growth in a well-ordered fashion, thus increasing wood production.

Professor Turner explained: “We wanted to know how the cells divided to produce this pattern, how they ‘knew’ which side to divide along, and we found that it was down to the interaction of these two genes.

“Trees are responsive to a lot of things. They stop growing in winter and start again in spring and this changes according to the amount of light and the day length. It might take a tree 150 years to grow in Finland and only ten years in Portugal.

“Now we know what genes are dictating the growth process, we can develop a system of increasing growth so that it is orientated to produce more wood – increasing the essential biomass needed for our future.”

The team are now growing poplar trees in the lab – to see if they fit the Arabidopsis model. They will use these results to develop a system of increasing wood production.
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Researchers close in on engineering recognizable, drug-free Cannabis plant
UC Riverside Researchers Develop Genetic Map for Cowpea
New research shows how mobile DNA survives—and thrives—in plants, animals
Cucumber Genome Published
Structural study at EMBL reveals how plants respond to water shortages
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Antagonistic Genes Control Rice Growth
Making New Enzymes to Engineer Plants for Biofuel Production
Green Plant Transport Mystery Solved
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Are genes our destiny?
New African cassava resists devastating viruses
Species richness and genetic diversity do not go hand in hand in alpine plants
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Green algae—the nexus of plant/animal ancestry
New Twist on Life’s Power Source
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Future of biology rests in harnessing data avalanche
Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman Receives Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal
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