A fluorescent protein found in jellyfish may help plants signal when they are cold or need water.
John Finer, Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center Scientist, is studying gene expression in plants through the use of green florescent protein (GFP), a protein found in the Pacific jellyfish that gives off a green glow when excited by high intensity blue or white light.
GFP, used by scientists to mark or monitor gene expression, has been expressed in bacteria, yeast, slime mold, plants, the fruit fly and mammalian cells. Finer is producing plants that contain the GFP gene. Through this research, he hopes it may be possible to introduce other genes in plants that would sustain adverse environmental conditions such as cold, heat, flooding, or drought.
Finer is using genetic engineering to impart stress-resistant characteristics in plants, to modify growth habits and to make sure everything in the plant is working the way it's supposed to be working.
He is studying GFP expression in the Christmas cactus. So far, he has yielded small root structures that, under a microscope, glow green when illuminated with a blue light.
The idea of using GFP in the plant is to track specific genes in the plant as it grows. For example, genes that exhibit stress tolerances, impart specific leaf color or promote certain growth characteristics will glow if present. The trick is to maintain the presence of that gene throughout the growth and development of the plant.
The research may not have immediate practical applications, but depending on the final results, it could produce promising marketing opportunities in the field of ornamentals.