Noisy gene atlas to help reveal how plants 'hedge their bets' in race for survival

Phys.org | January 24, 2019

As parents of identical twins will tell you, they are never actually identical, even though they have the same genes. This is also true in the plant world. Now, new research by the University of Cambridge is helping to explain why 'twin' plants, with identical genes, grown in identical environments continue to display unique characteristics all of their own. Plant scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) have built a gene expression atlas that maps the 'noisy genes' of genetically identical plants. The research, published today in Molecular Systems Biology, found that around 9% of the genes in otherwise identical plants are highly variable in the way that they behave. Interestingly, many of these highly variable (noisiest) genes help a plant respond to its environment, including genes involved in reacting to light, temperature, pathogens, and nutrients. This variation in gene behavior could be useful in nature for populations of genetically similar plants to hedge against environmental stress such as drought, high salinity or extreme temperatures. This means that there will always a few plants in the population that is prepared to survive different stresses due to their variable gene behaviors (hedging their bets). But this variability can also be a problem, such as in agriculture where environments are more controlled and farmers want uniform crops that germinate and flower at the same time and respond equally to applications of fertilizers and water.

Spotlight

Local high school students come to campus to participate in a camp, build robots based on animal senses, and learn about the ways biology and engineering overlap.

Spotlight

Local high school students come to campus to participate in a camp, build robots based on animal senses, and learn about the ways biology and engineering overlap.

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Outcomes4Me | October 12, 2021

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Abveris, Biosciences | November 12, 2021

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Vedere Bio | October 29, 2020

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