Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

IISER scientists identify the gene that greens plants

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BBX11 gene

Mains level : Genetics and its applications

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) have identified a gene that facilitates in the greening of plants.

It would be no surprise to expect a core Biology question in the coming years, if we look at this PYQ:

Q. Which of the following statements are correct regarding the general difference between plant cells and animal cells? (CSP 2020)

  1. Plant cells have cellulose cell walls whilst animal cells do not.
  2. Plant cells do not have plasma membrane unlike animals cells which do
  3. Mature plant cell has one large vacuole whilst animal cell has many small vacuoles

Select the correct answer using the given code below-

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

BBX11

  • The synthesis of chlorophyll in plants is a lengthy, multi-step process.
  • When a seedling emerges from under the soil it must quickly synthesize chlorophyll to start supporting its own growth.
  • In order to facilitate the quick synthesis of chlorophyll, plants make a precursor of chlorophyll called ‘protochlorophyllide’ in the dark, which glows red when blue light is shone on the plant.
  • As soon as the plant comes out into the light from under the soil, light-dependent enzymes convert protochlorophyllide to chlorophyll.
  • The two proteins oppositely regulate the ‘BBX11’ gene to maintain optimum levels of ‘BBX11’.

How does it work?

  • It plays a crucial role in regulating the levels of protochlorophyllide — an intermediate in the biosynthesis of the green pigment chlorophyll.
  • The amount of protochlorophyllide synthesized needed to be proportional to the number of enzymes available to convert them to chlorophyll.
  • If there is an excess of free protochlorophyllide, then exposure to light converts it into molecules that cause ‘photobleaching’.
  • Thus, it is very important to regulate the amount of protochlorophyllide synthesized by the plant and here comes the vital plant played by the ‘BBX11’ gene.
  • If it is less, plants are unable to efficiently ‘green’ in order to harvest sunlight.

Benefits of the research

  • The study could have tremendous implications in the agriculture sector in tropical countries like India and can help provide leads to optimize plant growth under stressful and rapidly changing climatic conditions.
  • Due to the rapidly changing climatic conditions, farmers in several states in India, especially in Maharashtra, are suffering huge losses in crop yields.
  • This often leads to severe distress among the farming community as indicated by the high number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra for the past several years.
  • Severe drought, high temperature and high light are some of the major reasons for crop failure. Young seedlings emerging out of the soil are extremely sensitive to high irradiance of light.
  • This study can provide leads to optimize plant growth under these stressful conditions.
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