text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text
Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
News
design element
News
News From the Field
For the News Media
Special Reports
Research Overviews
NSF-Wide Investments
Speeches & Lectures
NSF Current Newsletter
Multimedia Gallery
News Archive
Press Releases
Media Advisories
News Tips
Press Statements
Speech Archives
Frontiers Archives
 


Frontiers
Turning on Flower Power

January 1996


researcher and plants

Using Arabidopsis, biologists have discovered the "flower genes" in plants. When the genes are switched on, the plant blooms.

Credit: Stephen Webster

Plants begin to flower when one of two internal genetic switches is turned on, NSF-funded biologists have discovered. With this knowledge, the scientists are using genetic engineering to manipulate the blooming process.

Working independently, groups of scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of California at San Diego demonstrated that when one of two genetic switches is flipped, the plant will stop adding to its stem or root system and concentrate all of its efforts, instead, on blossoms.

"We have virtually complete control over the onset of flowering," Martin Yanofsky, senior scientist of the UC San Diego team, told The Los Angeles Times.

Scientists used the two genetic switches, known as the Leafy and the Apetala1, on such diverse plants as the mustard family's Arabidopsis and tobacco and aspen trees.

In aspens the result was particularly dramatic. Aspens normally take 8 to 20 years and 30 feet of growth to flower. But the transformed seeds wasted little time on normal growth patterns, flowering when they were only six months old and two inches tall.

"We've transformed the aspens from trees into weeds," Detlef Weigel, leader of the Salk team, told The New York Times.

Weigel expects the discovery to encourage commercial tree breeders who are currently constrained by the long life cycle of trees.

In addition, the discovery could cut as much as 70 percent of the time needed to breed new seed varieties and could lead to genetically engineered crops that need less time to reach maturity.


Return to January 1996 Frontiers home page   Other Contents of This Issue
Visit Other Frontiers Issues page   Other Frontiers Issues
Visit Other NSF Publications page   Other NSF Publications
Visit Office of Legislative and Public Affairs page   Office of Legislative and Public Affairs

 

Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page