UF Researchers Link Gene From Ancient Virus With Plant Stature (UF/IFAS Blog)

UF Researchers Link Gene From Ancient Virus With Plant Stature

A new study from the University of Florida links the ability of plants to grow to great heights to a 500-million-year-old interaction between a virus and a type of algae.

Daniel Conde, a postdoc in the Forest Genomics Laboratory who co-authored the new study with Cíntia L. Ribeiro, a recent graduate of the UF/IFAS Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program, were supervised by Matias Kirst, Ph.D., a professor in quantitative genetics in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, who also co-authored the study.

A previously uncharacterized gene, Enlarged Vessel Element (EVE), could be the key to plants reaching a larger size. “What’s also fascinating about EVE is its origin,” Kirst explained. “It seems that EVE first appeared in plants around 500 million years ago when a virus transferred parts of its DNA to a species of algae. When flowering plants started emerging around 125 million years ago, that gene evolved to play a role in vessels and how plants transport water. And now, that ancient interaction is what helps modern-day poplar and possibly other tree species to reach great heights.”

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