Gene copy number key to aluminium tolerance
A study from the US Florida University’s Genetics Institute (Gainesville) has identified a key maize gene associated with aluminium tolerance. The researchers found that tandem triplication of the gene, multidrug and toxic compound extrusion 1 (MATE1), confers tolerance to high levels of aluminium in soil. Metal levels are a particular problem in acidic soils as many metals are soluble at low pH. Below pH5, aluminium is absorbed by plant roots causing stunting and inhibiting uptake of other nutrients. The USDA estimates that some 30% of land area and 50% of arable land has acidic soils.