The image on the left shows a seedling treated with a synthetic chemical that performs all the normal duties of the light-activated chemicals important to photosynthesis. Thus, plants treated with the chemical grow normally, even when they are raised in the dark. The new paper in Plant Cell marks the first time that a synthetic substitute has affected whole-plant light responses.
I got a little too excited at reports of this paper, thinking at first that they said glow in the dark plants. I’m a self-confessed junkie for glowing biology things.
I study plant processes by tracking patterns of bioluminescence (“living light”) in genetically modified plant tissue, usually with the help of the reporter gene luciferase. You probably know it better as the enzyme responsible for making fireflies glow.
My model plants contain a luciferase gene that’s connected to my gene of interest, and I can track the activity of both genes by the amount of light produced in the plant tissue.
The image on the right shows the first genetically modified, luciferase-containing tobacco plant, which was placed onto a sheet of Kodak film and exposed slowly (Ow. et al, 1986).