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How plants handle drought on a molecular level

This is Science Today. Plant cell biologist Sean Cutler and his colleagues at the University of California, Riverside have accelerated the knowledge of how plants survive drought by showing on a molecular level, how a stress hormone produced naturally in plants helps them survive by inhibiting their growth during times when water is unavailable.

Cutler:            It's called abscisic acid or ABA for short and what physiologists discovered over the last 40 years or so was that when plants are exposed to low water conditions, levels of this signaling hormone increase dramatically.

Narrator:       During drought conditions, certain receptor proteins in plants perceive ABA, causing the plants to halt growth and activate other protective mechanisms.

Cutler:            For so many years, we haven't really understood how the hormone works. And now that we know that, we're in a much better position to be rational and take both genetic and chemical approaches to improving crop water use.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.