In Brief

A new chemical could help make plants more stress tolerant.

Scientists have created a synthetic chemical called pyrabactin that helps plants protect themselves from drought conditions. Pyrabactin parallels a natural stress hormone, abscisic acid (ABA), which plants already have small amounts of in their systems. But commercial extractions of ABA are expensive to produce and very sensitive to light. Pyrabactin does not suffer from any of these defects. Here is it how it works:

A receptor is a protein molecule in a cell to which mobile signaling molecules – such as ABA or pyrabactin, each of which turns on stress-signaling pathways in plants – may attach. Usually at the top of a signaling pathway, the receptor functions like a boss relaying orders to the team below that then proceeds to execute particular decisions in the cell.

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