. Scientific Frontline: Genetically Modified Plants Grow Better in Arid and Saline Conditions

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Genetically Modified Plants Grow Better in Arid and Saline Conditions

Tobacco is one of the most well-studied plants by scientists.
Photo Credit: Rodion Narudinov

Russian scientists have modified tobacco. They added the AtGSTF11 gene and improved the plant's resistance to adverse conditions. These adverse conditions include low temperatures, drought and salty soil. Model plants with the new gene used in the experiments showed increased vitality. The scientists have published a description of their experiments in the Russian Journal of Plant Physiology.

Plant stress (caused by a variety of factors - drought, temperature, contaminated soil, etc.) ends at the cellular level with oxidative stress: reactive oxygen species are formed in the cell. They destroy proteins, disrupt the structure of DNA and lead to cell death or interfere with vital functions, the scientists add. There are cellular mechanisms that prevent the development of oxidative stress - low-molecular antioxidant compounds, proteins (antioxidant enzymes), glutathione.

"Glutathione is a short sulfur-containing peptide that plays an important role in protecting plants from stress. It is formed, then cycled into oxidized and reduced forms, and so on. This is the glutathione cycle. In this process, reactive oxygen species are eliminated and plant cells do not die. A number of genes are involved in this cycle. We added another gene, glutathione S-transferase, and got a more viable plant," says Bulat Kuluev, Head of the Plant Genomics Laboratory at the Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics (Subdivision of the Ufa Federal Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences).

The biologists were able to grow strong plants at a temperature of +15 degrees Celsius (the normal temperature for tobacco growth is +25 ... +28 degrees). They were also able to reproduce tobacco plants under sparse watering - up to 50 ml once a week - and in an acidic environment - the soil was watered with a two percent sodium chloride solution.

"Tobacco as an experimental model was not chosen to make life easier for smokers. Tobacco is a very convenient model for research. First of all, tobacco companies used to actively fund research on the plant, and today we know much more about tobacco than about many other plants. A lot of research has been done on its anatomy, physiology, morphology, biochemistry and growth processes. Therefore, any changes we make to the plant are easy to detect. Secondly, tobacco is easy to transform, grows and reproduces well, which also simplifies our task," explains Aleksandr Ermoshin, Associate Professor of the Department of Experimental Biology and Biotechnologies at the UrFU.

The data obtained by the researchers can be applied to crops. For example, the viability of potatoes, tomatoes and other solanaceous plants can be improved. However, scientists have yet to test the resistance of crops with the new gene under extreme conditions.

Reference: Plant productivity, especially agricultural productivity, depends on soil acidity. Acidic soils inhibit plant growth and development and reduce the effectiveness of fertilizers. Acidity depends on factors such as climate, soil-forming rocks, human activities - the large amount of mineral fertilizers, etc. According to various estimates, the total area of acid soils on arable land in Russia today is 30-33% of the total area of arable land in the country.

Published in journalRussian Journal of Plant Physiology

Source/CreditUral Federal University

Reference Number: bio042523_01

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