Researchers examining how the hormone jasmonate works to protect plants and promote their growth have discovered how a transcriptional repressor of the jasmonate signaling pathway makes its way into the nucleus of the plant cell. The scientists hope that this recently published discovery will eventually help farmers experience better crop yields with less use of potentially harmful chemicals. “This is a small piece of a bigger picture, but it is a very important piece,” said Dr. Maeli Melotto, a University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) assistant professor of biology. Dr. Melotto recently co-authored a paper that advances current understanding of plant defense mechanisms with her collaborator Dr. Sheng Yang and his team at Michigan State University’s Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory (DOE-PRL). Dr. Yeng is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator. The collaborative paper was published in the December 4, 2012 issue of PNAS. Jasmonate signaling has been a target of intense research because of its important role in maintaining the balance between plant growth and defense. In healthy plants, jasmonates play a role in reproductive development and growth responses. But, when stressors such as herbivorous insects, pathogen attack, or drought come into play, jasmonate signaling shifts to defense-related cellular processes. The team from UT Arlington and Michigan State focused on the role of jasmonate signaling repressors referred to as JAZ. Specifically, the scientists looked at how JAZ interacts with a major transcription factor called MYC2 and a protein called COI1, which is a receptor necessary for jasmonate signaling.
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