Every person is unique. I have noticed that in every group, each individual offers something valuable to the collective. And, although different, each person depends on someone else in some way. How does this pertain to ethylene? Turns out that a family of ethylene genes (a group of related genes) works a little bit like a group of people – each gene has a specific role that sometimes overlaps with another gene within the gene family.
Ethylene is known as a ripening gas: fruits ripen faster in its presence. At first, scientists only knew that ethylene was a signaling molecule responsible for regulating various developmental processes in plants. However, they weren’t sure how this occurs.
Athanasios Theologis, a senior scientist at the Plant Gene Expression Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and his team discovered the mechanism for ethylene’s synthesis and function in the weed Arabidopsis thaliana.
The synthesis of ethylene in plants is a two step process, the first of which is catalyzed by 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase (ACS). When the scientists studied nine ACS family members, they discovered that while individual members were not crucial, they overlapped in function. Moreover, when all the ACS genes were mutated, plant growth was inhibited.
The genetic and functional map created by this study can provide more productive, and efficient agricultural practices as this study shows that the various members of the ACS gene family regulate flowering time, response to gravity, ethylene production, and most importantly, disease resistance.
Discussion Question: How can this knowledge actually allow for improvement of plant growth?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091122095415.htm
Journal Abstract: http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/abstract/183/3/979
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