Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Purple petunias reveal all

Purple petunias reveal all

A team of New Zealand researchers from AgResearch and Plant & Food Research has unlocked an elaborate code to discover how coloured pigments in plants form.

“We wanted to understand how plants control the amount of pigment they make, and when and where they produce it,” says the lead author, AgResearch scientist Dr Nick Albert.

Their paper “A conserved network of transcriptional activators and repressors regulates anthocyanin pigmentation in eudicots” has just been published in the world’s top-ranked plant biology journal, The Plant Cell.

“We were trying to understand how plants are able to control how much pigment they produce and how colour patterns form. If you like, we’ve discovered both the accelerator for turning pigment on, and the brake for slowing it down,” says the senior researcher, Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Kathy Schwinn.

President of the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists Professor Brian Jordan says the discovery is extremely significant. “Gene regulation is critical to the control of cellular activity. This research provides profound insight into our understanding of this regulation.”

Dr Albert says they embarked on the work for two reasons.

“It’s really interesting understanding how nature works and how such elaborate colour patterns are formed in nature. They provide important insights into the way genes behave and how the way they are expressed can generate diversity in life forms.

“Pigments are hugely important for consumers – we look for them in the flowers and plants that we buy, grow and eat. Pigments and related compounds also have well documented health benefits.”

The research built on work Dr Albert had done earlier at Plant & Food Research in Palmerston North during his PhD at Massey University, where he had identified genes that controlled some of the colours in petunias.

“A lot of people have worked in this field before, but the real strength is we have joined a lot of dots together about how these genes behave. It’s quite elaborate – one gene turns on another and it turns on another,” says Dr Schwinn.

“In our experiments we altered the expression of existing genes in petunias. By removing this repressor – or the brake - the normal colour that the petunia made was enhanced. Stems and leaves that were normally green became purple - really intensely pigmented.

“If we turned the repressor on to high levels, it could turn a solid purple flower quite pale.

Depending on which of the regulatory genes you were repressing, you could get quite different colours.”

Insights from this study are already assisting scientists at Plant & Food Research to help develop fruit and vegetable cultivars with improved levels of anthocyanin pigments through conventional breeding.

“At AgResearch, we can now identify new target genes for forage crops that could increase pigmentation or tannin production,” says Dr Albert.

Plants normally contain tannins to prevent insects feeding on them. Tannin production in forages is important in agriculture because they improve nitrogen-use efficiency in the rumen, may improve animal health and productivity and can help prevent bloat.

“If we can reliably deliver tannins into the diet of sheep, cattle and deer, that’s of benefit to New Zealand farmers.”

Dr Albert’s current work at AgResearch is now looking at how tannins are regulated in clovers. “They are normally produced in the flowers and seeds but we have one species that produces a lot of tannin through the leaves, so I am looking at why it produces so much and whether there’s a way for us to use this.”

Ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

No Voda/Sky: Commission Declines Clearance For Merger

The Commerce Commission has declined to grant clearance for the proposed merger of Sky Network Television and Vodafone New Zealand. More>>

ALSO:

EARLIER:

Power: IEA Report On New Zealand's Energy System

Outside of its largely low-carbon power sector, managing the economy’s energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions while still remaining competitive and growing remains a challenge. More>>

ALSO:

NASA: Seven Earth-Size Planets Around A Single Star

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water. More>>

ALSO:

Auckland Transport Case: Men Guilty Of Corruption And Bribery Will Spend Time In Jail

Two men who were found guilty of corruption and bribery in a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) trial have been sentenced in the Auckland High Court today... The pair are guilty of corruption and bribery offences relating to more than $1 million of bribes which took place between 2005 and 2013 at Rodney District Council and Auckland Transport. More>>

ALSO:

Hager Raid: Westpac Wrong To Release Bank Records To Police

The Privacy Commissioner has censured Westpac Banking Corp for releasing without a court order more than 10 months of bank records belonging to the political activist and journalist Nicky Hager during a police investigation into leaked information published in Hager's 2014 pre-election book, 'Dirty Politics'. More>>

ALSO:

EARLIER:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news