Menu
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
  Evolution coup: study reveals how plants protect their genes
Unlike animals and humans, plants can't run and hide when exposed to stressful environmental conditions. So how do plants survive? A new Université de Montréal study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found a key mechanism that enables plants to keep dangerous gene alterations in check to ensure their continued existence. “We've discovered a new pathway that plants use to protect their genes against dangerous alterations that could also allow some useful mutations to occur,” says Normand Brisson, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor who made his discovery with graduate students Alexandre Maréchal and Jean-Sébastien Parent.

“Such mutations played an important role in the evolution of plants with high nutritional value, resistance to disease and harsh climate that are so important to modern agriculture,” adds Dr. Brisson. “Our results open new research avenues for the study of similar mechanisms of gene repair in humans that might be important for human evolution, our responses to stress and the prevention of devastating diseases.”

How do plant genes mutate?
All living things are constantly exposed to stressors that can provoke gene mutations, yet if uncorrected such mutations can have disastrous consequences such as the development of cancers in humans or cell resistance to cancer-fighting drugs. Cells have evolved a battery of mechanisms to correct mutations, including recently discovered strategies that can also modify the number of copies of individual genes. These corrective mechanisms have attracted a lot of scientific interest since they could play a key role in species evolution. For example, while chimps and humans have almost identical genes, differences present in the number of copies of individual genes could account for distinctions between these species.

Dr Brisson suspected that a protein family he has studied for years, called the “Whirlies” (because of their peculiar structure similar to a whirligig) might be important to protect against mutations in plant cells – specifically in the chloroplast – the engine of photosynthesis that allows plants to transform carbon dioxide into sugar and expel the oxygen we breathe.

Working with his students and Biochemistry Professor Franz Lang, they showed that Whirlies are key to preventing major rearrangements of genes that could result in the creation of multiple gene copies. The discovery is important, since the number of copies of a gene must be kept scrupulously in balance with other genes so they can function correctly together.

Even though gene multiplication can be thought of as detrimental, such multiplication can be an important adaptation to stressors and so keeping such mutations in check must be balanced against creating mutations that may actually help living things survive in changing conditions.

“As the effects of climate change and industrial pollution cause increasing concern for human health, we might overlook how increases in temperature and pollutants affect the plants we depend on for our survival,'' stresses Dr. Brisson. “These rapid changes in environmental conditions all cause great stress on crops, trees and wild plants and could have further unforeseen effects on their genes.”
Plants Put Limit on Ice Ages
Carnegie donates landmark clones to biology
Plants on Steroids: Key Missing Link Discovered
Gene Function Discovery: Guilt by Association
Cracking the Plant-Cell Membrane Code
Private Support Helps Public Plant Research
Scientists Watch Cell-Shape Process for First Time
How plants choose their mates
Mastermind Steroid Found in Plants
Unlocking the secrets of a plant’s light sensitivity
Nailing down a crucial plant signaling system
What makes a plant a plant?
New component of a plant steroid-activated pathway discovered
Big Boost to Plant Research
The Heart of the Plant
New tool offers unprecedented access for root studies
Steroids control gas exchange in plants
Plant toughness: Key to cracking biofuels?
Amoeba may offer key clue to photosynthetic evolution
The future of plant science – a technology perspective
Plant research funding crucial for the future
Wolf B. Frommer Receives Bogorad Award for Excellence in Plant Biology
Lighting up the plant hormone “command system”
Plant organ development breakthrough
Breakthrough: How salt stops plant growth
New Cancer Diagnostic Technique Debuts
Plant Science Could Ease Global Food and Fuel Demands
Have you had your cereal today?
Menu
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
“Safety Valve” Protects Photosynthesis from Too Much Light
Weeds Could Help To Feed The World
Antagonistic Genes Control Rice Growth
Making New Enzymes to Engineer Plants for Biofuel Production
Green Plant Transport Mystery Solved
Gene Discovery To Increase Biomass Needed For Green Fuel
Are genes our destiny?
New African cassava resists devastating viruses
Species richness and genetic diversity do not go hand in hand in alpine plants
Scientists discover how cancer may take hold
Green algae—the nexus of plant/animal ancestry
New Twist on Life’s Power Source
Controlling a sea of information
Plant Steroids Offer New Paradigm for How Hormones Work
Future of biology rests in harnessing data avalanche
Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman Receives Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal
Plant Scientists Participate in DOE Energy Frontier Research Center
Advance in understanding cellulose synthesis
Midget Plant Gets Makeover