Ural Federal University: Ural Biologists Decode Long RNA Chains of Plants

Scientists at Ural Federal University study plant genomes to find those genes that are responsible for resistance to heavy metals in soils. A new machine, a sequencer, which decodes the long chains of DNA and RNA of living things, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, will help them do this. The machine will allow researchers to identify genes that help plants survive in contaminated soil.

“A plant’s genetic system contains about 26,000 genes. No more than 10-15% of them work at any given moment of life, all the rest are silent. The emergence of new stressors in the environment leads to the reaction and inclusion of some genes that were not previously in demand. To study these genes, we bought equipment – a sequencer. It helps to determine which molecules are active at a particular moment in time without breaking the long RNA nucleotide chains. Thus, we can find out with high precision which gene is responsible for fighting a particular stressor,” says Irina Kiseleva, head of the Department of Experimental Biology and Biotechnologies at UrFU.

Scientists are now working to find genes that help fight toxic elements in the environment. To do this, they are looking for genes that regulate the synthesis of lignin, a component of the plant cell wall that increases plant resistance to excess heavy metals in the soil.

“Plants respond to this impact also on a molecular-genetic level. Our task is to understand the mechanism of lignin synthesis, which helps plants to fight the aggressive impact of environmental pollution, and to learn how to control it. Using sequencing, we can more precisely identify the genes and transcription factors that regulate the amount of lignin produced in response to soil contamination and determine which genes have been activated to resist the effects of metals. These genes can be used to create plant varieties with increased resistance to anthropogenic stressors,” explains Anastasia Tugbaeva, a junior researcher at the Laboratory of Biotechnology of Components Maintenance and Restoration of Natural and Transformed Biosystems at UrFU.

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