Researchers have discovered a gene, which they have named ICARUS1,  that enables plants to regulate their growth in different temperatures, and it could lead to new ways of optimizing plant growth in different climates.

Monash University Associate Professor Sureshkumar Balasubramanian, along with colleagues in Spain, made the discovery after analyzing natural populations of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, commonly known as thale cress. They found that some populations of Arabidopsis simply would not grow when the temperatures increased as little as 3-4 ºC so they set out of learn the genes responsible for the growth defect and and came upon ICARUS1.  

Plants that carried a defective ICARUS1 gene stopped growing when the temperature reached hot levels, and continued growing when it cooled down again.

"This allows us to envisage novel ways and mechanisms through which plant growth can be optimized," said Balasubramanian. "Interestingly, Arabidopsis isn't the only plant to have this gene, it is also found in nearly all other organisms, which suggests that our findings can be explored in crops."

The researchers said the findings provided insights into how plants modulate their growth, and could lead to scientists designing plants that could withstand elevated temperatures.

Citation: Zhu W, Ausin I, Seleznev A, Méndez-Vigo B, Picó FX, Sureshkumar S, et al. (2015) Natural Variation Identifies ICARUS1, a Universal Gene Required for Cell Proliferation and Growth at High Temperatures in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS Genet 11(5): e1005085. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005085