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Archive - Apr 30, 2009

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Synthetic Mimic of Abscisic Acid May Protect Crops from Drought

Scientists have identified a synthetic chemical that has the potential to be used in a spray to protect crops that are facing drought conditions. The chemical is pyrabactin and it mimics abscisic acid (ABA), which is a plant stress hormone that helps crops survive stressful conditions such as drought. For years, scientists have contemplated spraying ABA directly onto crops to enhance their protection in times of stress. But ABA is a costly, complicated, and light-sensitive molecule that has not found use in agriculture. "We screened thousands of chemicals for one that mimics ABA,” said the senior author of the study. “We found pyrabactin activates some of the ABA receptors in plants and is an excellent mimic of ABA. Moreover, unlike ABA, it is stable and easy to make. It therefore suggests a highly effective chemical strategy for improving plants' ability to survive under low-water conditions, potentially benefiting farmers in drought-prone areas worldwide.” The researchers also used the pyrabactin molecule to fish out an ABA receptor, believed to be the first such receptor to be definitively identified. This work was published online in the April 30 issue of Science Express. [Press release] [Science Express abstract]

Novel Delivery Method Might Permit Effective Chlamydia Immunization

Use of a new nanoparticle delivery system has allowed researchers to generate immunity to Chlamydia trachamotis at mucosal surfaces in mice. Chlamydia is the most common bacterial agent of sexually transmitted diseases in humans, accounting for more than a million infections in the United States each year. Infections can lead to reproductive dysfunction and severe local infection. The scientists immunized mice with a bioengineered version of cellular vaults that enclosed a component of Chlamydia. Cellular vaults are barrel-shaped nanoscale capsules found in the cytoplasm of all mammalian cells. The vaults can be engineered to serve as potential therapeutic delivery devices. When the immunized mice were exposed to a vaginal challenge with live Chlamydia, their reproductive tracts were protected from severe bacterial infection. "We are encouraged that our findings could accelerate progress toward developing a vaccine to guard against this infection," said the senior author of the study, which appeared in the April 30 edition of PLoS ONE. [Press release] [PLoS ONE article]