Plant Science

Building rubber without rubber trees

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Science  16 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6219, pp. 245
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6219.245-a

Lettuce plants are also a source of natural rubber

PHOTO: © FLOWERPHOTOS/ALAMY

Natural rubber trumps synthetic, petroleum-derived rubber in useful qualities such as elasticity and abrasion resistance. But rubber trees are quite susceptible to disease, leading scientists to search for other sources of natural rubber and to understand the specifics of its biosynthesis. Lettuce plants are a source of natural rubber, and now Qu et al. identify a scaffold protein called CPTL2 that keeps rubber-synthesizing enzymes from bouncing around the cell. Tethered to the cell's endoplasmic reticulum, CPTL2 anchors a protein important for rubber polymerization in place. Plants with reduced expression of CPTL2 could not synthesize rubber, revealing its essential role.

J. Biol. Chem. 10.1074/jbc.M114.616920 (2014).

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