'Climate' genes in plants studied

Oct. 11, 2011 at 7:27 PM
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PROVIDENCE, R.I., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say knowledge of how plants adapt to local climates is vital to promoting agricultural and conservation successes in the face of climate change.

Researchers at Brown University have undertaken a study to define the genetic bases of plant adaptations to local climate, a release from the National Science foundation, which funded the research, said.

Diverse strains of the mustard plant, Arabidopsis, were grown and studied in various locations within its native range in Finland, Germany, England and Spain so genetic mutations increasing plant fitness in each of the locations could be identified.

A relatively small number of genes determined the preferred climate of each strain, the researchers found, and different sets of genes were responsible for adaptability to different types of climates.

It may be possible to combine various sets of climate genes in a single Arabidopsis strain to generate a strain that would successfully accommodate climate change, Brown's Alexandre Fournier-Level and colleagues said in the study published in the journal Science.

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