New York: When munched by grazing animals, herbaceous plants overcompensate - producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would be. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration.
Their study is the first to show that a plant's ability to dramatically rebound after being cut down relies on a process called genome duplication, whereby individual cells make multiple copies of all of their genetic content.
"Most herbaceous plants - 90 percent - duplicate their genomes," said Ken Paige, professor of animal biology at the University of Illinois in the US.
"We wanted to know what this process was for," Paige added.
Genome duplication enlarges cells and provides more copies of individual genes, and is more than likely to increase the production of key proteins and other molecules that drive cell growth, said co-researcher Daniel Scholes from the University of Illinois.
In the new study, the researchers focused on Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant in the mustard family that had the ability to duplicate their genomes.
The researchers experimentally enhanced an Arabidopsis plant's ability to duplicate its genome.
The altered plant gained the ability to vigorously rebound after being damaged, the researchers reported.
"We were able to completely mitigate the otherwise detrimental effects of damage," Scholes said.
They study appeared in the journal Molecular Ecology.