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Researchers closer to drought-resistant plants

Dec. 20, 2011, Riverside, CA - Researchers at the University of California Riverside have discovered a way that may be able to help plants survive periods of drought.

In an article published in the Valley News, researchers at UC Riverside have discovered the particular cellular machinery that control a plant's response to drought. By turning this machinery on, the researchers can heighten the plants stress response and increase survivability.

Under drought conditions, plants naturally produce abscisic acid, a stress hormone that turns on receptors in the plants, resulting in reduciong water loss, cessation of  growth to reduce water consumption and other stress-relieving responses.

By modifying the abscisic acid receptors, associate professor of plant cell biology Sean Cutler has found a way to manually turn the receptors on and off. “Receptors are the cell’s conductors and the abscisic acid receptors orchestrate the specific symphony that elicits stress tolerance,” said Cutler, a member of UC Riverside’s Institute for Integrative Genome Biology.

“We’ve now figured out how to turn the orchestra on at will,” he stated.

Results will appear in Dec. 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.