Plant Biology

Apples surviving in a thirsty landscape

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Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1367-1368
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6358.1367-e

Apple production in the semiarid Loess Plateau in China is susceptible to water deficiencies. Sun et al. have engineered an avenue for drought resistance into apple trees. Overexpression of the apple (Malus domestica) gene MdATG18a (encoding autophagy-related protein 18a), which is normally up-regulated in response to drought, allowed transgenic plants to better survive a dry spell. The amount of cellular damage, as measured by, for example, membrane integrity and accumulation of reactive oxygen species, was reduced. MdATG18a overexpression also caused increased accumulation of autophagosomes. The authors suggest that the improved intracellular physiology left by hypervigilant autophagy systems allowed the cells to survive suboptimal conditions.

Plant Biotechnol. J. 10.1111/pbi.12794 (2017).

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