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Drought-tolerant plant mined for survival genes

From Boston, Mass., at the Genome Sequencing and Analysis conference

The hot, dry conditions of South Africa have forced the evolution of so-called resurrection plants. After a year or more without water, these desiccated plants appear dead. But water them, and they spring alive, turning green within a few days.

Michael J. Gardner of the University of Cape Town and his colleagues have been sequencing the DNA of a resurrection plant called Xerophyta humilis. They have begun to identify genes that enable the plant to survive the loss of more than 90 percent of its water. Ultimately, the researchers would like to transfer such genes into crop plants such as rice, wheat, and maize to make them more resistant to drought.

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