March 13 (UPI) -- An examination of jasmonic acid, a plant hormone, could lead to hardier plants in an era of climate change, Salk Institute researchers reported Friday.
In a study published Friday in the journal Nature Plants, researchers noted that plants have hormones to signal defenses against drought, insects or intense temperature change, and then respond.
Using Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant in the mustard family whose genome is well-studied, researchers exposed the plant to additional doses of jasmonic acid three days after germination.
Two genes that rose to importance across the system were MYC2 and MYC3. These genes code for proteins that are transcription factors, indicating that they regulate the activity of thousands of other genes in the plant.
"By deciphering all of these gene networks and subnetworks, it helps us to understand the architecture of the whole system," researcher and study lead author Mark Zander said in a press release. "We now have this very comprehensive picture of which genes are turned on and off during a plant's defense response."
The research team was able to identify the genes most important in response to the stimulant, as well as cellular cross-communication within the plant through hormone pathways.
They added that the results provide a comprehensive understanding of how a plant hormone remodels cellular functions and plant behavior.
The genetic details researchers have found with this study, Zander said, can be useful for breeding crops that are better able to withstand attacks from pests.
"In the past, the MYC genes and other transcription factors have been studied in a very linear fashion," said study co-first author Mathew Lewsey, an associate professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. "Scientists look at how one gene is connected to the next gene, and the next one, and so on. This method is inherently slow because there are a lot of genes and lots of connections. What we've done here is to create a framework by which we can analyze many genes at once."