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Glow little stressed plant, glow.

Two years ago, researchers at Stanford University found that plants can react to touch by "turning on" a specific set of genes. These genes direct the production of proteins that bind to calcium and that may play a role in changing a plant's growth pattern (SN: 2/24/90, p.117).

Now, a team at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland has detected marked increases in calcium levels within plant shoots exposed to wind. Anthony J. Trewavas and his group inserted a jellyfish gene into tobacco plants, causing them to glow blue as their calcium levels rose. In the June 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, the researchers report that the shoots glowed a brighter blue after being squirted with puffs of air from a syringe.

"This establishes quite clearly that wind has an immediate effect on calcium," says Trewavas. He speculates that calcium serves as a signal that prompts wind-buffeted plant cells to shore up their cell walls and brace the plant in place.

Trewavas says the finding may have commercial spin-offs. Some companies have inquired whether the technique could create glow-in-the-dark flowers or luminous grass for airports.
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Title Annotation:genes that change plant growth
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 6, 1992
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