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Key element in ethylene response located

Researchers from the US-based Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, California) have identified the key gene controlling plant responses to ethylene. The chemical acts as a signalling hormone, controlling fruit ripening and stress responses such as wilting or premature senescence. Sensitivity to ethylene is governed by a protein, EIN2 (ethylene insensitive 2) that is normally “tethered” to internal cell membranes and must translocate to the nucleus to trigger an ethylene response signalling cascade. The study identified the ethylene-regulated switching mechanism that results in the movement of a fragment of EIN2 to the nucleus and activation of an ethylene response. The discovery of a key step in how plants “smell” ethylene may lead to better ways to control these processes in crop plants, the researchers note. The work was supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Details of the study have been published in the journal, Science.

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