Courtesy University of California, San Diego

Top, five genes convert leaves to petals; bottom, only four genes are needed to convert leaves to petals

Leaves into Petals

In what just might be the botanical equivalent to the ancient alchemist's dream of transmuting iron into gold, biologists have discovered how to genetically convert the leaves of flowering plants into petals, an achievement that holds commercial as well as scientific implications (S. Pelaz et al., "Conversion of leaves into petals in Arabidopsis," Current Biology, 11[3]:182-4, February 2001). "It has been known for the past decade that two genes--called A and B genes, for simplicity (different plant's A and B genes have specific names)-- are required for a petal to form, but they were not sufficient to convert a leaf into a petal," explains Martin F. Yanofsky, professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, who...

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