A University of Edinburgh study has pinpointed a gene called TCP20 which determines cell division and cell growth regulation.

Researchers believe the discovery of the plant “stem cell” could be used to create bigger crop yields and new varieties of ornamental plants.

The work appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The TCP20 gene was discovered in a mustard-like plant called Arabidopsis, but is thought to be present in most plant species.

Scientists had first predicted TCP20’s existence five years ago, but, until now, it had proved difficult to pinpoint a specific gene that regulates both cell division and cell growth.

The study team said any gene which controls these two key functions plays a crucial role in the growth process.

In division, cells split in two to form daughter cells which, in turn, make more plant tissue.

Cell growth regulation is the mechanism which ensures new cells do not grow too big or become too small to sustain themselves.

By identifying TCP20, scientists will potentially be able to manipulate plant growth with a greater degree of sophistication than at present.

More here.