LA JOLLA, Calif., Oct. 23 (UPI) — A hormone-sensing protein that helps plants survive dry spells and drought could yield clues to improve crops worldwide, scientists in La Jolla, Calif., said.
When a drought-tolerant plant detects dry conditions, a plant protein called PYR1 synthesizes a hormone knows as abscisic acid, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute said.
Plants under the influence of the hormone begin to conserve water by closing microscopic pores to stop water loss and causing more seeds to lie dormant.
“Abscisic acid triggers an array of plant drought-tolerance mechanisms,” said co-investigator Julian Schroeder of the University of California, San Diego.
Abscisic acid was discovered in the early 60s, but scientists are just beginning to understand how the hormone functions with PYR1 to keep plants alive during droughts, Schroeder said.
Understanding more about how PYR1 and abscisic acid interacts could allow scientists to design chemicals that mimic the interaction. Those chemicals could be sprayed on crops to protect them during dry times, Schroeder said.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International