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Wax discovery surprises

Unexpectedly, plants use a lipid transporter like those in mammalian cells to transport wax

Graciela Flores(graciela_flores@nasw.org)

Plants export wax from epidermal cells to the surface of their aerial parts through a lipid transporter similar to those present in mammalian cells, researchers report in Science this week. This is the first component of the plant lipid export system to be characterized functionally.

"Up until now, we knew that plants produce this waxy coating on their cuticle, which is essential for water conservation, and for their ecology in general, but no one knew how these highly hydrophobic molecules that are made in the cells get out of the cells," author Lacey Samuels, of the University of British Columbia, told The Scientist.

Analyzing the export of wax precursors biochemically is an extremely difficult task, so the researchers chose the genetic approach. While searching for an Arabidopsis thaliana plant defective in lipid transport, they came across cer5, a mutant with a glossy, bright green stem phenotype caused...

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