Offering fresh insights into how plants regulate genetic material so that some genes are turned on while others are turned off, a new study has revealed how plants could better adapt to and survive environmental swings such as droughts or floods.
“If you understand how plants regulate their genetic material, you can possibly manipulate that in certain circumstances so that plants can withstand environmental changes,” said Daniel Vera from the Florida State University (FSU).
The study showed how chromatin (a complex of macromolecules found in cells, consisting of DNA, protein and RNA) is organised in a cell.
This could mean major advances for the agriculture industry, the study noted.
The research team exposed 12 different samples of a maize genome to an enzyme to cut through the DNA, except where it was protected by proteins – a method to chart the so-called chromatin landscape.
Despite careful control of the experiment, certain regions of DNA differed wildly from one sample to the next.
Eventually, the group discovered that these variable regions were hypersensitive to the enzyme.
Once they discovered the root of the problem, researchers were able to control the enzyme reaction and show that these same regions were likely sites of genetic regulation.
“We have found new ways to see really important parts of the chromatin,” said Hank Bass, Associate Professor at FSU.
“People just missed it before,” Bass added.
Though the research was conducted on maize tissues, the results and protocol established through the research are translatable to other plants and mammals.
The findings appeared in the journal The Plant Cell.