Molecular Biology of Osmoregulation

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Science  08 Jun 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4653, pp. 1064-1068
DOI: 10.1126/science.224.4653.1064


The drought of 1983 resulted in some 10 billion dollars in agricultural losses and has focused attention on the vulnerability of our major crops to this devastating form of environmental stress. This article is concerned with the molecular biology of a new class of genes, called osm (osmotic tolerance) genes, that protect bacteria like Escherichia coli against osmotic stress and may work in a similar manner in plants and animals. Osm genes govern the production of a class of molecules, such as betaine and proline, that protect the cell and its constituents against dehydration. These osmoprotectant molecules have been known for many years to accumulate in plants but have only recently been shown to have potent antistress activity for bacteria.

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