Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have identified networks of
genes and gene regulators that allow plants to direct nitrogen to different
parts. Scientists have known that plants actively redirect nitrogen to their
different parts, especially when the amount of nitrogen available in the
soil is limited. But they have not identified the actual genes and proteins
that add up to a plant-wide nitrogen regulatory system.
ARS molecular biologist Doreen Ware and her team identified 23 proteins
called "transcription factors" that play specific roles in how plants use
nitrogen. Ware traced these transcription factors back to the individual
genes that control them and then forward to the genes on which they act. The
research team also identified genes and transcription factors that help
regulate other aspects of plant growth that involve nitrogen.
"What my team and our collaborators at the University of California-Davis
(UC-Davis) have identified are plant gene networks that direct nitrogen to
those places where the plant benefits the most when nitrogen is in limited
availability," Ware said. The scientists believe this research may open up
new avenues for breeding plants that respond in a particular way under
different environmental conditions.