Plants cannot make unlimited number of branches -- a gene puts the brakes on
this process called shoot branching. A group of researchers, though, reveals
a chemical that can reverse this limitation, possibly leading to improved
A regulator gene called D14 was identified in previous studies about shoot
branching. Shinya Hagihara, Yuichiro Tsuchiya and colleagues reasoned that
if they could inhibit this regulator, they could do the opposite and
increase branching. The research teams developed a screen to monitor shoot
branching activity based on whether a reporter chemical called
Yoshimulactone Green (YLG) glowed green.
By screening a library of 800 compounds, the researchers found that 18 of
them inhibited D14 by 70 percent or more. One of these is called DL1, and
could increase shoot branching in both a type of flower and in rice. The
team is now testing how long the chemicals last in the soil and are
investigating whether it is toxic to humans.