Researchers from Tel Aviv University have succeeded in isolating a gene whose surplus expression* activates the asexual reproduction (apomixes) mechanism in plants. The discovery could shed new light on the evolutionary transition of species from the sea to dry land and revolutionize agriculture.
In this study, the researchers chose as their model plant, which reproduces using sexual reproduction, moss of the Physcomitrella patens type. However in this study a gene called Bell1 found in all the plant’s tissues was used by researchers to make the moss create embryos without the sexual reproduction systems.
An additional advantage was that this gene is preserved among plant species, and and understanding of the mechanism fundamental to the asexual reproduction (apomixes) could pioneer the way to activating a similar process in crop plants. Such a successful process to apply cloning to produce seeds from selected plants could ensure the rapid reproduction of targeted plants, their storage for seeds and distribution to farmers using relatively simple means and at a low cost.
For seeds’ companies this means that the plant’s own natural genetic replication is the name of the game in agriculture, as it imparts uniformity and leads to the upgrade and production of superior varieties, which will have the desired properties and right nutritional parameters, such as plants yielding tasty fruit that are resistant to disease, and more. The potential here is immense as the production of identical seeds enables their long-term preservation and the marketing and distribution of the seeds to farmers easily and cheaply, a fact which could reinforce significantly global food security.
This ongoing research is the result of about ten years’ work conducted by two research groups. These groups include one led by Prof. Nir Ohad at the Dept. of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants who directs the Manna Center Program for Food Safety and Security at Tel Aviv University. Prof, Ralf Reski who heads the Department of Plant Biotechnology at Freiburg University in Germany leads the second group. These excellent research teams recently published the results of their study in the prestigious journal, “Nature Plants”.
Prof. Ohad explained that this significant research began by examining the essential difference between sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction (apomixes). By using and developing the newly discovered Bell1 gene the researchers enabled the plant to produce the next generation independently without fertilization, thereby bypassing the problems associated with sexual reproduction.
For further details please contact Prof. Nir Ohad 050-7797958
* = Gene expression is the process by which genetic instructions are used to
synthesize gene products.