October 29, 2003 - 12:46 has reported the findings of biologists at the University of California, San Diego, and others, who have found a new gene essential for plant growth. The gene, SIR1, functions to keep the effects of auxin in check. Auxin is a plant hormone essential in regulating the development of plants and their responses to their surroundings, including the ability of plants to grow toward light.

SIR1 was discovered through an approach known as chemical genetics, in which chemicals are used to regulate activities of proteins produced by specific genes. quotes the scientists as saying that one implication of the discovery is the potential development of environmentally safe herbicides from chemicals that impede the action of auxin by over-activating the SIR1 gene.

The discovery of SIR1 was reported in the August 22 issue of Science. For more information, see the report at

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