February 6th, 2012 | Category: Arabidopsis, Media coverage | Leave a comment

How To Grow A Planet (featuring Exeter Biosciences)

Tune in to BBC2 on Tuesday 7th Feb @ 9pm to see University of Exeter Plant Science on the telly!  This first episode of a new three-part series, “How To Grow A Planet“, features an experiment I performed especially for the programme, which aimed to visualise communication between plants.

Fig. 1. Professor Iain Stewart

Fig. 1. Professor Iain Stewart, more awesome than Brian Cox?

The national & international press have had their say on the experiment.  The Daily Mail even managed to get the royal family involved.  Read the articles here, here and here.  However, for the most accurate and proportional piece, you need look only as far as the Bude People (who also give the department some nice advertising).  Interestingly, it seems the Daily Mail have long had a thing for talking plants.  Personally, I go with Titchmarsh every time.


Experiment Outline

When plants are wounded they release a volatile plant hormone (methyl jasmonate, MeJa) which may be detected by other parts of the same plant, or by other plants. We took a MeJa-responsive promoter and fused it to the light-emitting luciferase reporter gene from firefly, then used this reporter construct to transform Arabidopsis.  Rosemary plants were then wounded, inducing them to release large quantities of MeJa (the distinctive aroma of rosemary is a mix of several volatiles, including MeJa).  The MeJa was detected by the engineered Arabidopsis plants – this altered the activity of the MeJa-responsive promoter, which caused a modulation in luciferase expression and a change in the pattern of light emitted.

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