Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dead Sea fungus's secret of survival may help crops

An extraordinary fungus that manages to thrive in the super-salty Dead Sea could one day open up new genetic approaches to creating crops that can tolerate saline soils.

The fungus Eurotium herbariorum is able to tolerate the Dead Sea's incredible salt content of 340 grams per litre – about 10 times saltier than ocean water. Most of the Earth's organisms are far less tolerant of salt, and will dehydrate and die if exposed to too much of it.

But researchers are interested in developing salt-tolerant food crops because soil salinity is increasing in some parts of the world. Land that needs to be constantly irrigated gradually becomes more saline, and crop yields go down.

One way that cells respond to stress from salt is by manufacturing glycerol, which helps keep water from migrating out of a cell. So researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel isolated a gene called EhHOG associated with glycerol production in the fungus and inserted it into brewer's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

They found the transgenic yeast was able to tolerate more salt than normal, and that it had more tolerance for high and low temperatures and for hydrogen peroxide. The researchers say if the gene could be inserted into a plant, it might eventually be used to increase stress tolerance in crops. They add that other genes from Dead Sea organisms might also be promising.

But Tim Flowers, a plant physiologist at the University of Sussex, UK, says that fungi are so different from crop plants that there is no reason to think the gene will be useful. He says salt tolerance is probably a trait involving multiple genes, and it that it is unlikely that transplanting one or two genes will result in crops with increased salt tolerance.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0509653102)



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AGRI-INFO/JANUARY 11, 2006


TITLE: DEAD SEA FUNGUS’S SECRET OF SURVIVAL MAY HELP CROPS

ALAM BA NINYO NA NATUKLASAN NG MGA EKSPERTO ANG ISANG FUNGUS SA DEAD SEA NA BALANG ARAW AY MAKATUTULONG NG MALAKI PARA MABUHAY SA SALINE SOILS ANG MGA TANIM?

ANG FUNGUS NA ITO AY KINILALA SA PANGALANG EUROTIUM HERBARIORUM, AT NATUKLASANG MAY KAKAYANANG MABUHAY SA SALT CONTENT NG DEAD SEA NA 340 GRAMS PER LITER – SAMPUNG BESES NA MAS MAALAT KESA SA KATUBIGAN SA KARAGATAN.

ITO AY TALIWAS SA NANGYAYARI SA IBANG URI NG ORGANISMO NA KAPAG NA-EXPOSE SA MATINDING ALAT AY DUMARANAS NG DEHYDRATION, AT NAMAMATAY.

DAHIL DITO, MAY PAGKAKATAON NA ANG MGA EKSPERTO NA MAKA=DEVELOP NG SALT TOLERANT FOOD CROPS DAHIL SA NGAYON AY NAPANSIN NILANG TUMATAAS NA ANG SALINITY NG MGA LUPAIN SA ILANG BAHAGI NG MUNDO.

ANG MGA LUPANG KAILANGANG MADALUYAN NG IRIGASYON AY UNTI UNTING NAGIGING SALINE NA ANG RESULTA AY MAS KUMUKONTING ANI.

ANG ISANG DAHILAN KUNG BAKIT NAKATATAGAL ANG ISANG ORGANISMO SA ALAT AY ANG KAKAYANAN NITONG MAKAGAWA NG “GLYCEROL” NA NAKATUTULONG NG MALAKI PARA HINDI MAWALA ANG TUBIG SA CELL.

SA PANANALIKSIK NA GINAWA NG MGA EKSPERTO NG UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA SA BANSANG ISRAEL, NAGAWA MAIHIWALAY ANG GENE NA TINAWAG NA “EhHOG”, ASSOCIATED ITO SA GLYCEROL PRODUCTION SA FUNGUS AT ISINISINGIT SA BREWER’S YEAST, SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE.

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