Under drought conditions organisms including nematodes, can enter a state of suspended animation known as anhydrobiosis. This process enables nematodes to survive until rehydration but the precise molecular control mechanisms remain unclear. In March 7 Nature, John Browne and colleagues from National University of Ireland Maynooth, describe a plant desiccation gene that is also found in a nematode.

Browne et al. identified a strongly induced 675 base transcript in the anhydrobiotic nematode Aphelenchus avenae. The gene is upregulated in response to desiccation stress and encodes a member of late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins that are induced in many plants when they are deprived of water (Nature 2002, 416:38).

LEA promotes the formation of a stable 'bioglass' in the cytoplasm of anhydrobiotic plants and may trap fragile biological molecules spatially and temporally, preserving them from desiccation biological damage.

"These findings suggest that animals and plants that...

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