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Long-Sought Achievement Opens Door to Development of Heat-Tolerant Crops

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A USDA scientist may have opened the door to development of more heat-tolerant crops. Plants use an enzyme known as Rubisco in photosynthesis. Temperature plays an important role in this life-giving process. When it gets too hot – a Rubisco helper protein called Rubisco activase shuts down, photosynthesis stops and the plant doesn’t grow. The result is a less-bountiful harvest. But different plants shut down photosynthesis at different temperatures. Ever since a USDA Agricultural Research Service team discovered the important role of Rubisco activase in 1985 – scientists around the globe have been trying to crystallize the plant protein. ARS Plant Physiologist Michael Salvucci – who was part of that ARS team in the 80s – is now part of a team that has found a way to crystallize Rubisco activase. That discovery will allow researchers to visualize it with X-ray diffraction – which will help scientists better understand how it works and possibly manipulate its sequence so it doesn’t unravel at higher temperatures.

Salvucci and Arizona State University cooperators cloned the activase genes from the creosote bush – which remains relatively stable at high temperatures because it is heat tolerant – and generated parts of the protein that were stable enough to produce crystals. The findings could help in the search for genes that cue plants to synthesize more heat-stable versions of the protein and thrive at higher temperatures.

 

Source: NAFB News Service