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Synthetic chemical offers solution for crops facing drought (Image 2)


Hypothetical model of ABA stress hormone produced naturally by plants

A hypothetical model of what abscisic acid (ABA), a stress hormone produced naturally by plants, looks like when bound to the receptor protein PYR1. A receptor is a protein molecule in a cell to which mobile signaling molecules may attach. Usually at the top of a signaling pathway, it functions like a boss relaying orders to the team below that then executes particular decisions in the cell. The yellow molecule is ABA and it is bound inside a pocket of PYR1. The colored regions in PYR1 (blue red, connected by dashed lines) show parts of PYR1 that are predicted to contact ABA. The distances between contacts' points are shown with numbers (units = angstroms).

Crops and other plants are constantly confronted with adverse environmental conditions. Plants use specialized signals, called stress hormones, to sense difficult times and adapt to stressful conditions to enhance survival. Of the various stress hormones produced by plants, ABA has emerged over the last 30 years as the key hormone that helps plants cope with drought conditions.

Research led by Sean Cutler, an assistant professor of plant cell biology in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, suggests the possibility of spraying stable synthetic chemicals on plants to enhance stress tolerance during drought and improve yield. Cutler identified pyrabactin, a synthetic chemical that turns on the ABA signaling pathway in Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant used widely in plant biology labs as a model organism, and used it to fish out a receptor for ABA.

This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

To learn more about this research, see the UC-Riverside news story Synthetic chemical offers solution for crops facing drought. (Date of Image: April 2009) [See related image Here.]

Credit: Cutler Lab, University of California, Riverside

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