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Of the major food crops, only rice is currently able to survive flooding. Thanks to new research, that could soon change—good news for a world in which rains are increasing in both frequency and intensity.
The research, newly published in Science, studied how other crops compare to rice when submerged in water. It found that the plants—a wild-growing tomato, a tomato used for farming and a plant similar to alfalfa—all share at least 68 families of genes in common that are activated in response to flooding.
Rice - Species - Regions - Monsoons - Genes
Rice was domesticated from wild species that grew in tropical regions, where it adapted to endure monsoons and waterlogging. Some of the genes involved in that adaptation exist in the other plants but have not evolved to switch on when the roots are being flooded.
"We hope to take advantage of what we learned about rice in order to help activate the genes in other plants that could help them survive waterlogging," said study lead Julia Bailey-Serres, a UC Riverside professor of genetics.
Study - Team - Cells - Reside - Tips
In the study, the team examined cells that reside at the tips of roots of the plant, as roots are the first responders to a flood. Root tips and shoot buds are also where a plant's prime growing potential resides. These regions contain cells that can help a plant become more resilient to flooding.
Drilling down even further, the team looked at the genes in these root tip cells, to understand whether and how their genes were activated when covered with water and deprived of oxygen.
Way - DNA - Cell - Stress - Response
"We looked at the way that DNA instructs a cell to create particular stress response in a level of unprecedented detail," said one of the lead researchers, UC Riverside's Mauricio Reynoso.
"This is the first time that a flooding response has been looked at in a way that was this comprehensive, across...
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