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Scientists from IRB, IBMB-CSIC and Dutch university discover molecular mechanism behind plant growth

The research was carried out in part at the ALBA-CELLS Synchrotron by Miquel Coll’s structural biology team and was published in the journal 'Cell'

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18.02.2014

A joint study conducted by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona (IBMB-CSIC) and Wageningen University (The Netherlands) has revealed how hormones called auxins activate plant development. Miquel Coll’s group at IRB Barcelona collaborated on this key molecular biology research, which was published in the renowned scientific journal Cell.

Using the technology available at the ALBA-CELLS Synchrotron in Cerdanyola del Vallès and the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, Coll’s structural biology team was able to study how auxins control the expression of multiple genes in plants, which are activated depending on what task is needed: growing cells or leaves, flowering or putting out roots, among others. This discovery is significant because, as Coll explains, it reveals definitively how auxins affect genes –previously we knew they were behind all of these processes but not how they activated them.

The study has revealed that auxins unblock a transcription factor, a DNA-binding protein, which in turn activates or represses a specific group of genes. This type of transcription factors is called ARF (Auxin Response Factors), and they depend on auxins to cause the plant to develop.

Auxins have practical applications in agriculture: helping breed seedless fruit, stopping fruit from falling off the plant too early and acting as an herbicide. They also have biomedical applications, as antitumor molecules and to reprogram cells that form tissues (somatic cells) in stem cells.

More information is available in the IRB Barcelona press release.

Article:

The ALBA-CELLS synchrotron and the European Synchrotron in Grenoble made it possible to study the role of auxin

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