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Read aloud Magic without sneezing: Spanish scientists have introduced into the genome of geranium two genes that give the popular ornamental plants more vitality and also prevent pollen production. For flower lovers with pollen allergy, these plants could be the ideal solution, my Begoña García-Sogo from the Instituto de Biología Molecular and Celular de Plantas in Valencia and her colleagues. Pelargonium, commonly known as geraniums, has been one of the most popular bedding and balcony plants since the 17th century. The plants cultivated today were created from crosses of various wild species from South Africa. Generations of breeders have developed from these hybrids a wide range of varieties, which differ in leaf shape, flower color, fragrance and many other properties.

The diversity of traditional breeding methods is astonishing, but there are limits: some characteristics can not be "bred" out of the existing genetic material of a plant species. But this limit has not been insurmountable since the invention of green genetic engineering. Using special methods, researchers can now incorporate genes into the genome of plants that come from other species or even from animals or microorganisms.

Begoña García-Sogo and her colleagues have incorporated two genes derived from bacteria into the pelargonium. One has the effect of increasing the production of the plant hormone cytokinin in the plant. This substance has many effects on growth and development as well as a stimulating influence on cell division. It thus also counteracts aging processes. The other gene is targeted in the stamens of the flowers active and blocked there the process of pollen formation.

The genetically modified plants actually showed some desirable properties, according to the researchers: they branched out more, grew more compactly and even had flowers with a stronger color. Compared to the baseline, they also showed delayed aging. The successful blockade of pollen formation, according to the scientists, has two positive aspects: In this way, the plants are sterile and can not transfer their genetic changes to other plants. In addition, pollen allergy sufferers could be spared from sneezing attacks when the new variety graces their balcony boxes. Despite these successes, however, the fundamental question arises as to whether genetic engineering should actually be used in ornamental plants. display

Begoña García-Sogo (Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Valencia) et al .: BMC Plant Biology, doi: 10.1186 / 1471-2229-12-156 © science.de? Martin Vieweg

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