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November 21st, 2018 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

By temporarily silencing the expression of a critical gene, researchers fooled soybean plants into sensing they were under siege, encountering a wide range of stresses. Then, after selectively cross breeding those plants with the original stock, the progeny “remember” the stress-induced responses to become more vigorous, resilient and productive plants, according to Sally Mackenzie, professor in the departments of Biology and Plant Science at Penn State.

Researchers identified a gene they call MSH1 that exists in all plants, and when they down-regulate or turn off its expression, the plant becomes “convinced” it is encountering multiple stresses, even though it is growing under perfect conditions. The plant senses it is dealing with drought, extreme cold, heat and high light levels, etc., simultaneously …. so it amplifies the expression of gene networks to respond to those stimuli. Read more