Basic research enhances potential for cultivation in extreme climates

Research on gene expression has resulted in plants that can survive drought, high salt concentrations, and infections. This opens the possibility of forestry in harsh climates. The plants produce more leaves than usual, which mean that they can yield more food per plant. These are the findings of researchers at Umea University in Sweden in an article in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences, PNAS.

All living organisms are dependent on water, but this is especially true for plants. Limited access to water is one of the decisive factors for humans to be able to survive in large parts of the earth. The development of plants (crops) with greater tolerance for drought is of great importance for more people to be able to live a decent life.

In a pure basic research project, where the goal was to understand how cells regulate protein expression, scientists in Umea have now taken a giant step forward on the road to developing plants with greater resistance to drought, infections, and high concentrations of salt. By deactivating a gene that codes for a protein that is part of the so-called mediator complex in the plant mouse-ear cress, the researchers have shown that these plants evince a much greater ability to survive drought. At the same time, they have stronger resistance to high salt concentrations and their blooming is delayed, which indirectly leads to increased leaf production.

The research project is a collaboration between scientists at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Umea University and the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology and the Department of Microbiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Original article:
The Arabidopsis thaliana Med25 mediator subunit integrates environmental cues to control plant development Nils Elfving, Celine Davoine, Reyes Benlloch, Jeanette Blomberg, Kristoffer Brannstrom, Dorte Muller, Anders Nilsson, Mikael Ulfstedt, Hans Ronne, Gunnar Wingsle, Ove Nilsson and Stefan Bjorklund. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2011; published ahead of print May 2, 2011:

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1002981108

Source: Umea University