[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 11-Aug-2010
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Contact: Joris Gansemans
joris.gansemans@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)

VIB and UGent researchers identify key mechanisms of cell division in plants

New technology can be applied to boost crop yields

As a result of the worldwide growing population, the output of agricultural crops has to double by 2050. To address this challenge, the world needs new varieties of plants, with higher yield per hectare than current varieties. "The major driving force behind plant growth is cell division," says Geert De Jaeger, group leader at VIB and Ghent University. "If you understand the machinery that governs this process, you have the key to increase agricultural yield."

Four years and 300 experiments

The research, which took four years and more than 300 experiments to complete, was conducted by Jelle Van Leene and colleagues from De Jaeger's team, together with Erwin Witters of the University of Antwerp. The researchers have now published the complete map of the machinery behind cell division in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. During their experiments, the researchers discovered more than 100 new proteins involved in the process.

TAP: a combination of transgenic technology, protein purification, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics

Many proteins with an essential role in the cell cycle of plants have been revealed by the global sequencing projects of recent years. Until now, little was known about the interactions between these proteins, the actual core of the machinery. The newly developed 'Tandem Affinity Purification (TAP) Platform' allows researchers to quickly unravel the interactions between the proteins involved. TAP requires a multidisciplinary approach, combining transgenic technology, protein purification, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics.

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