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Russian Scientists Have Created Plants That Glow In The Dark

Russian Scientists Have Created Plants That Glow In The Dark

Russian scientists have created the first permanently glowing plants. Their autoluminescence property is encoded at the genetic level. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Natural bioluminescence is poorly understood. Until recently, only the mechanism of bacterial luminescence was fully deciphered. However, attempts to create steadily glowing plants using the bacterial system were not successful.

Just over a year ago, scientists from the Russian scientific startup Planta installed all the components necessary for bioluminescence in mushrooms. For the first time, the mechanism of luminescence in a complex multicellular organism was fully deciphered.

In a new paper, the authors of the discovery show that the luminescence system of fungi can be effectively transferred to plants. The transgenic tobacco plants they created glow at least ten times brighter than previous experiments.

The green glow comes from leaves, stems, roots, and flowers, it is visible to the naked eye and can be captured on conventional cameras and smartphones. What is important, a stable glow does not prevent plants from growing and developing normally.

"We noticed that the metabolism of bioluminescent fungi and common plants has a lot in common. And now we have successfully transferred the necessary DNA for the glow from fungi to plants, creating plants with a stable glow that exceeds all previous approaches in brightness, " Ilya Yampolsky, head of the project under the RPF grant, doctor of chemical Sciences, head of the Department of biomolecular chemistry at the Institute of Bioorganic chemistry named after M. M. Shemyakin and Yu.a. Ovchinnikov, RAS, is quoted in a press release by the Russian Science Foundation, which supported the research.

Unlike other widely used types of bioluminescence, the new approach does not require the addition of chemicals to maintain a stable glow. Plants containing fungal DNA glow continuously throughout their entire life cycle, from germination to flowering. The glow is constantly changing, can form unusual patterns and waves on the leaves of the plant, allowing you to observe for the first time internal processes that are usually hidden from the eyes.

"The increase in the glow is observed sometime after dawn and immediately after the transition to darkness, and if you turn off the light for a few days, the "waves" of glow continue for some time on the internal "biological clock" of the plant. Before the development of luminous plants, it was only a dream to study the dynamics of metabolism. The new technology allows us to evaluate phenolic metabolism in minute time intervals, and get information about the localization of processes with an accuracy of millimeters," says one of the authors of the study, Director of the Moscow State University Botanical garden, doctor of biological Sciences Vladimir Chub.

Earlier, scientists found out that mushrooms use a substance of phenolic nature-coffee acid, which is also present in plants. For light to appear, caffeic acid must undergo a metabolic cycle involving four enzymes. Two enzymes convert caffeic acid into a more complex molecule, which is then oxidized by a third enzyme with the emission of a photon — a glow occurs. Another enzyme converts the reaction product back into caffeic acid, closing the cycle. Thus, in order to produce luminous plants, the researchers only had to transfer four genes from fungi to plants.

The authors conducted an experiment on two types of tobacco, however, scientists note that the bioluminescence system they created can easily be transferred to other plants.

This discovery, according to the authors, will find wide application in science. Scientists will be able to use the glow to observe internal processes in plants. It can also be used to create luminous flowers, trees, and other decorative plants. The project provides for the creation of a commercial product, so it is possible that soon glow-in-the-dark indoor plants can be purchased.

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