Plants respond to environmental stress by 'tagging' RNA molecules they need to withstand the difficult conditions

phys.org | 10/30/2018 | Staff
jenny1246 (Posted by) Level 3
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The future looks challenging for plants. Climate change is forecast to bring widespread drought to parts of the planet already struggling with dry conditions. To mitigate the potentially devastating effects to agriculture, researchers are seeking strategies to help plants withstand extreme environmental hazards including drought and salt stress, a problem exacerbated when irrigated water passes through the soil, depositing salts which can then absorbed by plant roots, lowering their overall productivity.

One tack is to look at ways that plants have naturally evolved to cope with stresses such as too much salt. In a new study out in Cell Reports, researchers led by University of Pennsylvania biologist Brian D. Gregory and graduate student Stephen J. Anderson have identified a mechanism that could potentially be manipulated to develop more salt-tolerant crops.

Work - Tag - RNA - Molecules—the - Transcripts

Their work shows that a tiny tag on RNA molecules—the transcripts that are translated to produce proteins—serves to stabilize and protect these strands of genetic material. When plants are exposed to high-salt conditions, the RNA mark, known as N6-methyladenosine, or m6A, prevents the breakdown of transcripts encoding proteins that help plants more effectively deal with the challenging conditions.

"This is how we're going to help farmers," says Gregory, an associate professor in Penn's Department of Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences and the senior author on the paper. "We need to identify ways that we can make more salt-resistant and drought-resistant plants, and manipulating this pathway might be one way to do it."

Organism - Protein - Strand - Messenger - RNA

For an organism to produce any protein, it must first possess the corresponding strand of messenger RNA (mRNA). But not all mRNAs are turned into proteins; some are degraded before they reach that stage. In recent years, both mammalian and plant biologists have been paying attention to the m6A mark as a player in the process by which mRNAs...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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