Monday, 24 March 2014 11:01

Shedding light on plant colour

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A TEAM OF New Zealand researchers from AgResearch and Plant & Food Research has unlocked an elaborate code to discover how coloured pigments in plants form.

 

"We wanted to understand how plants control the amount of pigment they make, and when and where they produce it," says the lead author, AgResearch scientist Dr Nick Albert.

Their paper "A conserved network of transcriptional activators and repressors regulates anthocyanin pigmentation in eudicots" has just been published in the world's top-ranked plant biology journal, The Plant Cell.

"We were trying to understand how plants are able to control how much pigment they produce and how colour patterns form. If you like, we've discovered both the accelerator for turning pigment on, and the brake for slowing it down," says the senior researcher, Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Kathy Schwinn.

President of the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists Professor Brian Jordan says the discovery is extremely significant. "Gene regulation is critical to the control of cellular activity. This research provides profound insight into our understanding of this regulation."

Albert says they embarked on the work for two reasons.

"It's really interesting understanding how nature works and how such elaborate colour patterns are formed in nature. They provide important insights into the way genes behave and how the way they are expressed can generate diversity in life forms.

"Pigments are hugely important for consumers – we look for them in the flowers and plants that we buy, grow and eat. Pigments and related compounds also have well documented health benefits."

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