West Virginia State University Researchers Identify Arsenic Stress-Regulating Gene in Plants

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December 18, 2020
West Virginia State University Researchers Identify Arsenic Stress-Regulating Gene in Plants

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – Research at West Virginia State University (WVSU) has led to the identification of a gene that may be a positive regulator of arsenic stress tolerance in plants. The work was published in the December edition of the Journal of Hazardous Materials. 

“Arsenic, which can often be found in West Virginia soils as a result of extractive industries such as coal mining, is known to be extremely toxic to plants and animals in its inorganic form, as it negatively affects plant growth and development,” said WVSU research scientist Dr. Umesh K. Reddy. 

Arsenic has no known biological benefit, and the source of arsenic poisoning is through food and water, Reddy said. Poisoning with arsenic causes cancers, cardiovascular diseases, erectile dysfunction, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and can induce homicidal and suicidal tendencies among humans.  

Reddy and others were able to identify the novel gene Arabidopsis F-box protein AT2G16220, or Arsenic Stress-Related F-box (ASRF), through a genome wide association study, an approach used in genetics research to associate specific genetic variations with particular diseases.

Reddy’s team then developed mutant plant seedlings that did not contain the ASRF protein gene and determined that they showed high sensitivity to arsenate stress, which significantly affected growth when germinated on or exposed to arsenate-supplemented growth regimes.

Plant seedlings containing the ASRF gene were less affected by arsenate stress and showed only slightly reduced growth in comparison, suggesting that the ASRF protein is important for arsenate stress resistance.

“This research has the potential to have enormous implications for enhancing agricultural crop production not only in the U.S. but also around the world,” said WVSU Vice President for Research and Public Service Dr. José Ulises Toledo, who is working with Reddy to explore opportunities for commercial applications associated with the study’s findings.

The study, entitled Arsenic Stress-Related F-Box (ASRF) Gene Regulates Arsenic Stress Tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana, was a collaborative project between WVSU; the SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai, India; and the Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila in Saltillo, Mexico. 

A portion of the study is available for free on the website of the Journal of Hazardous Materials, a 9.04 impact score Elsevier journal. The full version is available for purchase.

The work is the latest in series of publications of the genomics research being conducted in Reddy’s lab at WVSU. Other studies have appeared in recent editions of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences and Plant Molecular Biology, among others.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multigenerational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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