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Mexican researches identify genes tolerant to drought

Selaginella lepidophylla
Science   To transfer the genetic information

The Centre for Research in Biotechnology (CEIB) of the Autonomous University of Morelos (UAEM) is investigating the Selaginella lepidophylla plant, commonly known as rock flower, doradilla or rose of Jericho, a very interesting plant when it is about drought.

Rock flower has the characteristic of losing up to 95 percent water when it is not available and fully recover within 48 hours once nurtured with water, a phenomenon that people call resurrection.

Ramon Suarez Rodriguez, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Plant Physiology of the CEIB said that this specimen was being used as a research model to try to transfer the genetic information, that causes its revival, to other plants so they can mimic this phenomenon.

He added that they were mainly seeking the genes that confer the plant drought tolerance and dehydration, and they found out that the trehalose, a sugar which is present in a variety of plants and animals, is what ensures the survival of these species in adverse weather conditions and conferred this resistance characteristic, "we identified the genes involved in the biosynthesis of this sugar to try to mobilize it and transfer it to other plants."

The Selaginella lepidophylla grows naturally between southern United States and southern Mexico, it is typical of arid areas but can also be found in wet areas. This is a very old plant that belongs to the group of Lycophytas, which have conductors systems, rhizophores instead of roots, no leaves and a microphylls structure with which it manages to do photosynthesis, that difference it from the higher evolutionary levels of plants.

The first models, in which the mobilization and transfer of the genes involved in the biosynthesis of trehalose was performed, were Arabidopsis, a model used by many plant physiologists in the world, and tobacco, as they can both be genetically engineered in a relatively easy process and also grow easily.

The results were positive, as researchers discovered that the transfer of genes effectively conferred drought tolerance, as well as tolerance to high or low temperatures and high salt concentrations in the water to the plants.

Its worth noting that the Laboratory of Molecular Plant Physiology of the CEIB has been working with plants of agronomic interest such as alfalfa, and in collaboration with the University of Chapingo, are generating transgenic maize with these genes that biosynthesize trehalose, additionally to an international project with Brazilian institutions through which they have already generated bean plants.

As part of this research, its also important to highlight the work of Cecilia Calderon Galvan, a doctoral student at the CEIB who is currently working with tomato crops under greenhouse conditions, who will then analyse their behaviour in the open.


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