Scientists Discover Formula for Longer Plant Life

In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Biology this week, scientists in Dr. Detlef Weigel’s lab at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tbingen, Germany announced that they had discovered the formula for long life in plants.

The researchers’ studies focused on certain short, single-strand sections of genes called microRNAs. These short-gene sections regulate other genes. In plants, microRNAS coordinate the growth and aging process. MicroRNAs work by stopping certain regulators from functioning. These regulators, called TCP transcription factors, influence the production of jasmonic acid, a plant hormone.

In their studies of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress), the researchers found that when more microRNAs are present, fewer transcription factors are active. With fewer active transcription factors, smaller amounts of jasmonic acid are produced by the plant, and the plant ages at a slower rate.

So, what can be done with these findings? Because of this research, scientists now have a better understanding of what affects the aging process in plants. In the future, this information could be used to genetically modify plants to live longer or grow faster. However, scientists have only just begun to learn how gene regulation works in plants. According to Dr. Weigel, only when these processes are fully understood will scientists be able to attempt to produce plants that have certain desired characteristics.

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