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Fertilizers shape plant genomes

Spraying plants with nitrogen-rich fertilizers does more than just make crops grow bigger; it also molds the chemical composition of their genomes and proteomes, according to a linkurl:study;http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/msp038 published online last week (Mar. 2) in the journal __Molecular Biology & Evolution__. "This tells us how modifications in the environment can have a big effect on a species and its genome, and how quickly it can happen," said linkurl:Sudhir Kumar,;ht

Elie Dolgin
Spraying plants with nitrogen-rich fertilizers does more than just make crops grow bigger; it also molds the chemical composition of their genomes and proteomes, according to a linkurl:study;http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/msp038 published online last week (Mar. 2) in the journal __Molecular Biology & Evolution__. "This tells us how modifications in the environment can have a big effect on a species and its genome, and how quickly it can happen," said linkurl:Sudhir Kumar,;http://www.kumarlab.net/ an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute in Tempe who led the study. Nitrogen is a scant resource in nature. So Kumar and his postdoc linkurl:Claudia Acquisti;http://www.kumarlab.net/personnel/acquisti_claudia.html set out to test whether plants conserve the essential element by opting to use nitrogen-poor nucleic acids such as thymine, which only contains two nitrogen atoms, as opposed to guanine with its whopping five N atoms. All told, an AT nucleotide combo equates to a single nitrogen molecule "savings" compared to a...

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