The SP1 gene ‘de-stresses’ plants

Scientists find gene that makes plants more carefree under climate stress

The SP1 gene ‘de-stresses’ plants, making them resilient to harsh conditions and furthering the possibility of future crops resistant to drought



The image shows mutant cress (left), and SP1 over-expressing cress (right). While wild and mutant cress were stunted under stressful conditions, the plants that over-expressed SP1 were remarkably healthy. Photograph: courtesy of Paul Jarvis, University of Oxford

Emma Bryce

Wednesday 7 October 2015 12.48 BST

By 2050, we’ll have to meet the gargantuan challenge of growing 50% more food, to feed a burgeoning global population. Enter climate-resilient agriculture, possibly the best chance we have of actually attaining this goal: as countries grapple with the effects of climate change—drought, higher salinity—increasingly we’ll have to depend on crops that can also flourish despite its inconsistencies.

Research on agricultural resilience abounds, but the latest offering looks to plant genetics for a solution, bringing us a little closer to the goal of hardy crops. Plant cell biologists at the University of Oxford have discovered a gene that can be harnessed to give plants in a laboratory setting more resilience, making them thrive instead of whither when unfavourable conditions strike.

The research, published this week in the print edition of Current Biology, revolves around a gene known as SP1, which is entwined with the makeup of all plants, and plays a regulatory function in photosynthesis. Read more.