Down the Tubes: Amino acid proves key to plant reproduction

12:34pm, July 16, 2003

Scientists have discovered that one of the myriad signals that human brain cells use to communicate also enables flowering plants to have sex. This versatile substance, an amino acid known as amino butyric acid or GABA, appears to help pollen grains form the sperm-carrying tubes that snake their way to a flowering plant's eggs.

GABA's new role came to light as Daphne Preuss, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Chicago, and her colleagues studied a sterile mutant strain of the mustard weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant that serves as a model of plant biology for many scientists.

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