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Biotech Science

Plants May Be Able To Correct Mutated Genes 363

Posted by timothy
from the early-stages dept.
ddutt writes "NY Times is running a story that talks of an exciting new discovery, which, if confirmed, could represent an unprecedented exception to Mendel's laws of inheritance. The discovery involves.. 'plants that possess a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents, as if some handy backup copy with the right version had been made in the grandparents' generation or earlier.'"
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Plants May Be Able To Correct Mutated Genes

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  • by caluml (551744) <slashdot AT spam ... OT calum DOT org> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @05:56PM (#12028932) Homepage
    It's just plants copying RAID or PAR files. This is nothing new - we've had those for years now.
    • Will they mutate over several seasons back towards their original form?
      • clearly i cannot type... ignore the spelling mistakes you grammar/spelling nazis... instead think of better input devices to prevent so many silly typos ;)

        keyboards, how antiquated
      • by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @07:26PM (#12030007)
        A lot of genetically modified plants will be selected against where they escape into the wild. Golden Rice, for example, uses a lot of energy making Beta Carotine, that is, (from the plant's view), wasted. When its seeds get cross fertilized by wild rices the genes tend to be weeded out in the wild areas quite rapidly. Rice has generations lasting a year or less, and it's been estimated that the genes are 99% gone within 10 years. Even in cultivation, farmers have to suplement their seed stock saved from the last harvest with new purchases of fresh Golden Rice every few years to keep the yields up.
        That's not mutation as you've described, it's natural and artificial selection, but so long as there are unmodifed plants in the same areas as the GE ones, it tends to work that way, as the vast majority of GE features are disadvantagious under natural selection, and a lot of them are so disadvantagious they require real rigor to preserve via artificial selection. They're like Pekinese dogs in the wild.
    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:12PM (#12029144)
      It's just plants copying RAID or PAR files. This is nothing new - we've had those for years now.


      Copying? If it bothers you so much you can always sue them for patent infringement. Of course the plants might lawyer up and come back at you claiming prior art....
      • Of course the plants might lawyer up and come back at you - first Schiavo, now this? It has begun...

        I welcome our new plant overlords.

    • Re:Planet RAID. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *
      It sure does sound like a distributed parity scheme. I bet the RNA-backup theory is a red herring, or at least something like tRNA can read the parity and make corrections, but it needs multiple 'votes' to ensure a proper fix (e.g from unmutated grandparents' DNA).

      Of course I don't remember too much about sexual plant reproduction - for all I know plants don't have animal-type tRNA...somebody will correct me I'm sure.
  • FWIW, the paper this morning was pointing out how this discovery might leave a gaping hole in evolutionary theory. The crux of the problem is that "micro-evolution" as it were, is dependant on an organism's ability to mutate from generation to generation. If a mechanism exists that prevents or corrects mutations across generations, then the theorists may *again* have to go back to the drawing board.

    Isn't it amazing how the more we know, the less we know? :-)
    • Unfortunately, that will be the major headlines coming across the Fox News screen..."Evolution flawed: mutations don't occur. Jesus weighs in on Bill O'Reilly tonight!"

      But the reality is that they don't know what causes this, they don't claim that it stops mutations on the whole, and they don't know if it stops all mutations. As per the article, it may only stop harmful mutations.
      • But the reality is that they don't know what causes this, they don't claim that it stops mutations on the whole, and they don't know if it stops all mutations. As per the article, it may only stop harmful mutations.

        I expect a long series of posts detailing a lot of thought experiments and speculations on how exactly evolution uses this, many outright contradictory, none observed. Just more Evolution of the Gaps from the Crowd of Lawyer-Wannabes.

      • by thefirelane (586885) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:12PM (#12029133)
        it may only stop harmful mutations.

        Granted, I have just an armchair knowledge of evolutionary theory... but isn't that a little off point? I thought the point of evolution was the organism doesn't know which mutations are harmful, many are tried, and the ones that work survive.
        • Nope. That's the idea behind natural selection; actually, it's the combination of random mutation and natural selection, which is part of evolutionary theory, but by no means the entire parcel.
        • by shawb (16347) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:23PM (#12029293)
          Think of it this way: this ability stems from a mutation in and of itself. All that it does is checks for a flaw in a certain sequence and fixes it. Probably this particular sequence has a high probability of being detrimentally mutated, and so having the repair mechanism makes it more likely that when the mutation happens, it won't kill the whole organism.

          An organism repairing it's own DNA is not unheard of. There are certain somatic (IE: not passed down from generation to generation) mutations and other varieties of DNA damage that lead to cancer. There is a mechanism in place to replace these mutations with another copy. The body also has a way of detecting and removing some viruses and retroviruses that have embedded themselves in the DNA of the host organism, to a limited extent.
          • by thefirelane (586885) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:54PM (#12029674)
            There are certain somatic (IE: not passed down from generation to generation) mutations and other varieties of DNA damage that lead to cancer. There is a mechanism in place to replace these mutations with another copy. The body also has a way of detecting and removing some viruses and retroviruses that have embedded themselves in the DNA of the host organism, to a limited extent.

            This is true, but everything you describe is where the organism detects genetic changes when it has a clear copy of the 'good' genes elsewhere. In the case of cancer... one cell mutates, but all the others still have the good DNA. The thing that makes this case so interesting, from what I understand, is that the entire organism had the new DNA so what would it compare against... (no I didn't read the article yet)
            • by harvardian (140312) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @07:20PM (#12029946)
              Your explanation is fairly on the mark, and I'd mod it up except that I want to participate in the discussion.

              The thing that's so remarkable about this case is as you said: BOTH alleles of the gene of the plant were defective as inherited from their parents, and yet they somehow reverted to an allele from the grandparents, across the entire organism. According to current theory, sexual replication causes a kid to inherit one allele of each gene from each parent (and by "theory", I mean you can watch this happen under a microscope). If both alleles received are "faulty" (which is a sticky term to use in many cases), there's no known way for a newly fertilized cell to know this. There's no information about what the correct gene should look like except the two copies of the gene it has. In cancer, as you point out to address the parent post, there is always a source of information used to correct the mutation.

              In the case of UV damage, information exists in the form of two fused thimidine molecules (two T's). If a cell sees two fused T's, it has a repair mechanism for correcting them. But, importantly, if this mistake is not corrected before DNA duplication occurs, then random bases are paired with the T's, because they're damaged. Once this happens, each daughter cell has lost the information required to correct the problem, and the mutation persists. If this happens in an unlucky spot, you can get melanoma.

              In the case of other more serious damage, like double-stranded breaks, your cell pulls in the other copy of your genes and edits against that. The information needed for repair is the "good" copy of the allele in the sister chromosome.

              So you can see why this is so confusing -- in the case in the article the daughter cells, with two bad alleles for the gene they studied, are supposed to have no information pointing them to the gene from the grandparents. And yet they did, since they were able to fix it. The article postulates that this could be because a THIRD copy of the gene exists as RNA that's passed down from the grandparents (third since there are two chromosomes, each with a copy of the gene). If this were true, then the RNA would be the source of information required to fix the problem. Alternatively, there could be a specific protein that hunts down mutations in this gene and somehow fixes it, since it somehow bonds only to the correct version of the gene. But that's just my wild speculation.
      • If this stopped all mutations, they'd have noticed about forty years ago.
      • by rob_squared (821479) <rob&rob-squared,com> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:16PM (#12029197)
        Exactly, science doesn't work like that. If a part might be, or is, wrong, that doesn't invalidate the entire theory necessarily. Evolution is somewhat like gravity. We have all this obvious evidence, but the underlying stuff is kinda misty. Newton knew gravity existed and made some nice laws. Einstein said why those laws work. String theory is a more comprehensive way of explaining Einstein's theories. Science changes, because it needs to.
        • by filmmaker (850359) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:20PM (#12029253) Homepage
          Science changes, because it needs to.

          Right. But also, because is those changes. Science is not some dogma, it's a process. So, for anyone who wants to get snarky about "holes" in evolution, well, no pooh-pooh Sherlock. It's not about authority or control, science is, instead, a process by which we attempt to attain and refine knowledge.
        • There's nothing in basic evolutionary theory that says that the methods of inheritance we know of (DNA/RNA) are necessarily the only ones, nor that these molecules necessarily work solely in the currently observed ways. This may be a big opportunity to see some alternate forms of inheritance. The fact is that these plants are still imperfect replicators, just slightly less imperfect than most other observed replicators. Our understanding may be revolutionized as far as Mendelian inheritance, but nothing
      • Thats all we need , Creationalist plants that refuse to evolve just to prove a point.
        Seriously though , i left biolgy behind years ago as a possible avenue of study however this is extremly intresting , If we could isolate the gene that is used to check for equality (or genes which i would more suspect) it would be intresting in the field of cancer prevention , just imagine a hormone treatment that could scan your healthy genes and make a comparison against them and terminate any rouge cells. Ofcourse in a
        • If we could isolate the gene that is used to check for equality (or genes which i would more suspect) it would be intresting in the field of cancer prevention

          Doubtful. We've known about Deinococcus radiodurans (aka "Conan the Bacterium [wikipedia.org]") for quite some time now. The darn thing has an accelerated repair rate that makes it extremely difficult to kill via DNA damaging methods such as radiation. Unfortunately, the knowledge hasn't led to anything all that useful for humans.

          Still, it will be interesting to kn
      • Ah, yes. All the mechanism has to do is make sure that it only reverses mutations that have the Evil Bit set.

      • The question becomes, how does a plant honestly know a harmful mutation from a benificiary one, in the span of one generation? Unless, the plants have some inborn performance monitoring system, and backup copies of genes. Very interesting, if true.
    • by cot (87677) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:00PM (#12028975)
      This would only be true for these specific plants and only if this mechanism ALWAYS prevented mutation.

      If these conditions applied to us, we wouldn't have cancer.
      • by mOoZik (698544) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:02PM (#12029005) Homepage
        But couldn't it be that those who possess the backup gene - for example, against cancer - may not develop cancer, even if their parents did? Obviously, this is only in plants and has not yet been confirmed, but how is this any different from a gene that's turned on or off? If the backup gene is turned off, what good is it? If you can turn it off, why can't you turn off the bad one? I'm obviously not a biologist, but maybe someone can take a swing at my silly queries.

      • If these conditions applied to us, we wouldn't have cancer.

        Cancer is caused by a DNA mutation that your body failed to correct. Errors are extremely common. The only reason why we survive is our body's repair mechanism. In the case of these plants, neither parent had a correct gene. Without a backup copy, there should have been no way for the gene to revert. Yet it did, so we're left with an odd conundrum. :-)

        That's not to say that the theories behind mutations are all wrong, but we could be seeing something akin to problems with Newtonian physics.
        • by DogDude (805747) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:09PM (#12029095) Homepage
          And just to add to your post, from what I understand from all of my doctor/veterinarian friends, cancer in the human body, at least, is quite common. We are simply able to, like with virus and bacteria based diseases, able to fight them off/correct them before they get out of hand. Full blown "Cancer" only happens when these problems get out of control, and the body can no longer contain/fix them.
          • by feepness (543479) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:29PM (#12029363) Homepage
            Full blown "Cancer" only happens when these problems get out of control, and the body can no longer contain/fix them.

            Furthermore, if lethal cancer occurs once you are past child-bearing age (around 30 up until recently), it isn't such a "bad thing" for the species. Once you've reproduced, evolution is done with you.
        • I really don't see this blowing the lid off of evolutionary science in the way that relativistic/quantum physics did to Newtonian physics. This simply seems to be a repair mechanism which has been put in place to mitigate where a certain mutation (I'm guessing this mutation is harmful) occurs. The body is known to have several DNA repair mechanisms, although most of these seem to be for somatic (not passed down to offspring) mutations.
          • What seems to count now is that science journalists will likely head off with idiotic bylines like "Evolutionary Theory Thrown Into Chaos", which cynical ID and Creationist advocates, knowing full well that the larger part of their supporters don't actually even know what evolutionary theory is, will grasp on to and declare that GODDIDIT. They'll also pepper it with things like "Hitler and Stalin were Darwinists", "Darwin recanted on his death bed" and "Have you ever seen an airplane get assembled out of s
        • Without a backup copy, there should have been no way for the gene to revert. Yet it did, so we're left with an odd conundrum. :-)

          There is a conundrum as to what the recovery mechanism is. There is no conundrum in evolutionary theory, because the parents both aquired a mutated gene and thus clearly the correction method isn't perfect.

          As you are obviously aware (re: cancer) most mutations are bad. An evolved mechanism for correcting certain kinds of harmful mutations is hardly a conundrum for evolutionar
          • We're left with a conundrum, because our understanding says one thing while the facts say another. So we learn from it, find our errors, and move on. :-)
            • It isn't clear to me how this contradicts anything we already know. It only presents a new behavior that we don't yet understand.

              The plant still mutates. These mutations can exist in the plants, and be passed on to children. That is what evolutionary theory predicts/requires. That there is a newly discovered and not yet understood mechanism for repairing some mutations is fascinating, but how does it represent an error in our previous understanding? Just because we weren't aware of all ways in which t
        • that's what a lot of the comments here seem to be missing.

          There is no such thing as inherently "good" or "bad", to say a mutation is good or bad is to imply someone is evaluating, we know were that idea leads off to... (If we didn't have mutations, we'd all still be one-celled *g*)

          No, if the offspring has a different gene than both of the parents, one must conclude that the source of the gene is not what one expected!

          A present theory is that the un-mutated DNA came from the RNA of the parents. The RNA

    • from what I read, the backup only gets "restored" if the plant is stressed. this would allow for error correction, but allow "happy accidents" to advance the species.
    • DNA containing redundancy certainly isn't efficient, so perhaps it's something that happened *because of* evolution, and doesn't negatively impact evolutionary theory, just requires that we modify our understanding of it.
      • It may not seem efficient, but there is actually a lot of redundancy in DNA. One place that redundancy often occurs is with proteins that are produced in large quantities over a short period of time. Multiple RNA transcriptions can be made simultaneously which then go and get transcribed into proteins. I don't think that efficiency is much of a concern, anyways. If I recall more than half the DNA in most advanced organism does not actually code for proteins, it's just tagging along. Although some of th
    • The paper this morning was pointing out how this discovery might leave a gaping hole in evolutionary theory.

      That's OK. Queue the religious zealots bringing their so-called "Gods" to fill that hole. :)

    • This doesn't pose any more of a problem for evolution than cockroaches with tough-as-nails chromosones. Why would a backup copy of genes demonstrate any flaw or hole in the theory? I realize that once the no-brain science journalists get their hands on it, the quacks and liars at the Discovery Institute will be blathering on, but perhaps you could demonstrate how this realistically is anything other than a pretty neat adaption.

      Of course, it could spell disaster for the plants in question if environmenta

    • could just be another mutation, except back the way instead of forward. if its the one gene being changed, then its got a 1/3 chance in getting the gene it had before back in the next mutation, assuming its this gene mutating again
    • No, not really (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:13PM (#12029167)
      For the people who, ah, read the paper, if this particular gene (HTH) is mutated, then a whopping 5% of the second-generation genes manage to revert to the wild type. The other 95% are still mutant. So this mechanism (which is normally masked by the presence of a normal HTH gene) provides for a small number of mutant offspring to revert to wild type, so that a deleterious mutation won't completely destroy the population it occurs in. To disprove "micro-evolution", you'd have to show that this mechanism used to be turned on in every organism and operated at ~100% efficiency rather than 5%. Don't bet on it.

      Now, this is definitely a pretty cool discovery, and there's going to be a stampede of people hunting around looking for some sort of, say, RNA copy of the genome hiding somewhere in Arabidopsis, and there will be a lot of fun in epigenetics. But it isn't going to destroy evolutionary theory, although I expect creationists (excuse me, "intelligent design theorists") will be running around for decades insisting that because this phenomenon exists, it's impossible for mutations to happen.
    • TFA does say that the self-correcting genes may only occur in non-sexual organisms, like arabadopsis (the plant everybody studies), or frequent slashdot posters.
    • FWIW, the paper this morning was pointing out how this discovery might leave a gaping hole in evolutionary theory.

      Probably not. We're still learning all about various aspects of genes, DNA, and evolution.

      For example, did you know that plants can activate certain genes in response to stressful conditions?

      Did you know that bacteria strains can hypermutate in response to conditions in which that bacteria might otherwise die out?

      Here are a few links I've just Googled. None of them are the original resear

    • > $SUBJECT

      Probably minimally.

      > If a mechanism exists that prevents or corrects mutations across generations, then the theorists may *again* have to go back to the drawing board.

      Except that we have overwhelming evidence that zillions of mutations have accumulated over the history of life on Earth.

      We're already aware of epigenetic [wikipedia.org] effects that you inherit along with your DNA (i.e., you develop from a fertilized egg that is a working system rather than just a passive data repository), and this appe

    • If a mechanism exists that prevents or corrects mutations across generations, then the theorists may *again* have to go back to the drawing board.

      Just because there is a backup mechanism that can prevent mutations from being passed on doesn't mean it works 100% of the time.

      In DNA replication, there are enzymes that scan the replicated strands specifically to make sure base pair matching occured correctly, and when it hasn't it can fix the problem. Without it, the number of DNA errors would be several
    • It need not stall mutation, but merely reduce the impact of deleterious mutations by encouraging heterozygosity.

      Lets take a common human example: syckle-cell anemia.

      Syckle-Cell is a mutation in the blood cells which causes them to be deformed and clog capillaries (amoung other things). The condition is fatal without treatment. However, having sycle-cell anemia also makes one resistant to malaria. How is this helpful?

      If someone has only one gene for syckle-cell (they are heterozygous recessive), they are
    • I've been reading Matt Ridley's The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature [amazon.co.uk]. Jumping off Richard Dawkins ideas that it's not survival of the fittest species, or even the fittest individual, but the survival of the genes *themselves*, I'm not overly surprised that recessive genes can express themselves generations afterward. Genes in fact compete with *each other* in the same individual, struggling to force some genes out, other times co-existing. In fact, this fits right in with Dawkins ideas.
  • by heauxmeaux (869966) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @05:57PM (#12028944)
    Back that gene up!
  • by aristus (779174) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @05:57PM (#12028947)
    ECC DNA? That's pretty damned cool. hard to believe we hadn't suspected that before.
  • by The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @05:58PM (#12028954) Homepage Journal
    I'm gonna start putting my cactus near my spider plant and praying for some of that mutated gene action.

    OK, OK... and some hot plant-on-plant action.

    OK, OK... and some hot plant-on-plant-on-me action.
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <jhummelNO@SPAMjohnhummel.net> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @05:59PM (#12028972) Homepage
    Odds are, now the grandparent plants are going to have to sue the grandchildren plants for having "stolen" their copyrighted and patented genetic code. As we've learned from Beatallica and Dangermouse, mixing older generations of information to recreate it anew is against the Laws of Copyright Nature.

    Who gave these plants permission to make backups of their grandparents material? I mean - really!

    OK - seriously, this is a fascinating idea, one that hopefully is indeed correct and can be explored. With this information, perhaps 20 years from now we can correct genetic abnormalities by having fetuses fix themselves. Kudos to the researchers for their hard work.
  • Could this some how be manipulated to work with humans as well? We could stop cancer right off, sure several disabilities in a family bloodline and so much more..

    Obviously they would make a law against this though because no one wants "super humans" let alone humans without defects.
    • We could stop cancer right off, sure several disabilities in a family bloodline and so much more..

      Better place to look is with viruses. They are the perfect vessel to carry DNA to specific cells. They can pass all the millions of cells until they find the exact right mix of sugars and protiens sticking out the cell. Yess, this is where the Johnsons live, the house with the window air conditioner sticking out of the left window, and the rusty plymoth dodge in the driveway.

      TuPac said you have to operate

  • Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by latent_biologist (827344) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:02PM (#12029011)
    Most Plant genomes are crazy complex. Besides that, polyploidy is often the norm [ncsu.edu] in plant chromosomes. With that much genetic material to work with, i guess you'd be bound to find a 'do-over' someplace.
    • Re:Makes Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GAATTC (870216)
      If you read the actual article, you will find that: - The research was performed in Arabidopsis, which behaves as a diploid - There are no other copies of the hothead gene which could have corrected the mutant copies There is something more complicated going on here
    • Re:Makes Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

      by D3 (31029)
      Yes, but this was seen in Arabidopsis (Mustard plant) which is not a polyploid plant. The article states that when they checked the genome there were no other "good" copies of the gene available to revert to. Both copies of the gene (one from each parent plant) were mutated copies. Yet somehow the DNA got reverted back to the non-mutated "grand-parent" copy in about 10% of the plants.
    • Most Plant genomes are crazy complex. Besides that, polyploidy is often the norm in plant chromosomes. With that much genetic material to work with, i guess you'd be bound to find a 'do-over' someplace.

      Exactly, and there's a reason for that crazy complexity. The core challenge for a plant is that it cannot move. It has to handle all the processes of life whilst living where ever it happened to sprout. If the sunlight is intense or shaded; if the ground is wet or dry; if a caterpillar munches on the pl
  • by GAATTC (870216) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:02PM (#12029013)
    Funny how this story only quotes Dr. (Bob) Pruitt. Most of this work was done by the first author Dr. (Susan) Lolle. The other two authors apart from Bob are both female. In the actual Nature article, this is reflected in the authorship credits. All of the comments in the NYT writeup are from male scientists. Why does the male scientist get nearly all the credit here? On the heels of Dr. Summers' (Harvard) comments that women are inherently less able to succeed as scientists, you would think the NYT would report this big story more carefully and give credit where credit is due.
    • Maybe it's because the reporter didn't have phone numbers for the female scientists, so was unable to call them?

      It could be bias, it could be the women were too busy to take the call, it could be that old Bob is a glory hound.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Funny how this story only quotes Dr. (Bob) Pruitt. Most of this work was done by the first author Dr. (Susan) Lolle.

      Sigh. Pruitt is last author. In the bio-sciences, this means that he's the principle investigator - the guy with the lab, the guy with the money, the boss, the big cheese. More to the point, he's listed on the Nature paper as the contact person. You know, the person to talk to if you're wrighting a story? There are *plenty* of PI's who are female - if something happens in their lab, they
    • The explanation for this is pretty simple, and is pretty much standard practice whether you are male, female, or other. The order in which the authors are listed (in most scientific journals, at least) is a standard heirarchy. The author listed first contributed "the most" to the paper in terms of the research. To my knowledge, this generally also means this person wrote the paper. Authors listed after the primary author are understood to have contributed less to the paper. The final author listed is s
  • by Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:03PM (#12029022) Journal
    Does that mean that the kids of two geeks will not read /. ?
  • by caryw (131578) <carywiedemannNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:03PM (#12029028) Homepage
    Stupid NY Times. The LA Times has an article on it too available here [yahoo.com].

    So plants create restore points they can roll back to? I predict Microsoft filing suit against the plant kingdom. They've been fighting the proliferation of tree based products for years!
    --
    Fairfax Underground [fairfaxunderground.com]: Where Fairfax County comes out to play
  • by jwgoerlich (661687) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:08PM (#12029080) Homepage Journal

    New Scientist has coverage. No registration required.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7185 [newscientist.com]

    J. Wolfgang Goerlich

  • by ari_j (90255) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:09PM (#12029089)
    This behavior can be observed in humans, too. For instance, my parents were both uncool, unintelligent jerks with no sense of humor whatsoever, and I'm an extremely hip, brilliant jerk with a great sense of humor.
  • Maybe it's just this generation of plant obtained the ability through mutation to make genetic self backups.
  • by Marx_Mrvelous (532372) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:12PM (#12029138) Homepage
    My wife was second author on this paper, and did quite a lot of the research! I guess that blows my cover ;)

    This really is no joke, these results are really exciting! I suggest everyone read the article.
    • It's pretty interesting. It could, from my limited understanding of things of this nature, suggest a secondary means of inheritance. Time from the microbiologists to start digging around.

      Never the less, this is not the death-knell of evolution, or in any way contradictory to it, though I know kook organizations like Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute will lie their heads off to make it look that way.


    • > This really is no joke, these results are really exciting! I suggest everyone read the article.

      Sorry; that's not customary on Slashdot.

  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:15PM (#12029184) Homepage Journal
    Before jumping to too many conclusions about this, remember that it is a report of a mutation one gene in one organism. It very well may be very specific to this particulary gene. Worthy of study. Not yet worthy of making broad conclusions.
  • The original press release [purdue.edu] is at least visible without a subscription. It also has contact information for the author, Robert Pruitt, for those who have inquisitive natures.

    Beware, there are pictures of MUTANT plants here. Watch out for the triffids.

  • by xlurker (253257) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:17PM (#12029212) Homepage
    just heard this report on NPR.

    What was reported is that although there were mutations in the DNA of the plant, its siblings didn't have them anymore. The researcher said that the best theory at the moment is that the non-mutated DNA was coming from the RNA of the plant. IANAB, but I think RNA usually is though to serve only a functional "middle man" role betweeen the genetic code and the cell machinery, and not actively involved in reproduction...

    He did not say that the plant was actively fixing its DNA for its offspring.

    The non-mutated RNA was itself directly inherted from the parents. In a way the RNA has become a bad backup copy of the DNA. That's the present theory... I guess this is what they'll start looking for... "Bad backup copy" since still 90% of the offspring of the plant still contained the mutated DNA.

  • by Anders Andersson (863) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:19PM (#12029240) Homepage

    I haven't bothered to register to read the article, so maybe this is discussed already: I have been told that plants (or at least some of them) have a lot of DNA due to, among other things, spurious repetitions of partial sequences. I don't have any numbers for nucleic DNA, but I think I saw somewhere examples of plants having more than 100,000 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA, compared to some 16,500 for humans. I guess those repetitions might work as a backup, and help revert an earlier mutation.

    I'm not a geneticist by profession though, so what I'm telling here may be an urban legend...

  • mutate back to the original state? could this be a possibilty at all to explain it? my knowledge of biology is limited so i have no idea
  • by jestill (656510) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:26PM (#12029329) Journal
    My lab does research on plant genomics, and we are involved in research concerning the duplication of genes in the plant discussed in the article.Many of the genes that a plant has exist in multiple copies and that is not a new idea. We can follow the evolutionary history of these duplicated copies and show that they often arise from duplication of the entire genome followed by selective genome loss. We also frequently find that single genes are duplicated by themselves, or that entire segments of a chromosome may be duplicated by the process of 'segmental duplication'. The interesting thing here is that the scientist believe that a second copy of the gene does not exist as a DNA copy, but as an RNA copy. That is an interesting hypothesis, that will need to be explored further.
  • When two "little people" have children, it's not unusual for that child to be of normal height. How does what is observed in the plants differ from the anecdotal observations of a similar nature in humans? Is this exciting because the plants have been modified or selected to specifically exclude any normal-plant characteristics wheras "little people" have not been?

    Can you tell that I elected to ignore all studies of biology starting at the eleventh grade?
  • Double Mutation? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bryan8m (863211)
    Could this gene simply be more likely to mutate and it just mutates back to the normal state?
  • Same story, no reg (Score:2, Informative)

    by statemachine (840641)
    AP wire story via Yahoo. No registration required.

    Plants Challenge Genetic Inheritance Laws [yahoo.com]
  • wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JeremyALogan (622913) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @10:16PM (#12031587) Homepage

    "a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents"

    turns out that two wrongs DO make a right

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