WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Genome Canada and Genome Prairie-funded researchers have discovered a receptor for the hormone abscisic acid (ABA), the major hormone involved in a plant's response to environmental stresses. The results appear in the Jan. 18, 2006, edition of Nature.

Robert D. Hill, a molecular biologist at the University of Manitoba, confirmed that a protein, known as FCA, acts as a receptor for ABA, solving a mystery that had eluded the scientific community for 45 years.

Although researchers know ABA helps plants survive environmental stresses such as drought, salt and cold, they had been unable to identify the receptor until now. The discovery of the way FCA binds with ABA will provide scientists with valuable information about plant growth and development.

Hill, along with postdoctoral fellows, Fawzi Razem and Ashraf El-Kereamy, collaborated on the project with Suzanne Abrams, Principal Research Officer at the National Research Council Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon.

"This discovery has many biological implications, including the prospect of greater crop yields," said Dr. Hill. "Once you have the first clue, it opens the door to understanding the mechanism, which can then be applied to improving a plant's response to environmental stress."

"Agricultural productivity is going to receive a boost from this scientific breakthrough," said Martin Godbout, president and CEO of Genome Canada. "The characterization of this new class of ABA receptor (FCA) involved in RNA metabolism and controlling flowering time is a "tour de force" led by Canadian scientists. We congratulate Dr. Hill and Dr. Abrams and their research team on this significant achievement."

Jerome Konecsni, president and CEO of Genome Prairie, said, "Canada is one of the world's leading producers of grain but our harsh climate results in millions of dollars of crop losses every year. Knowledge gained from Dr. Hill's discovery has the potential to improve the tolerance of all plants to environmental stresses and to improve the quality of crops."

Genome Canada is a not-for-profit corporation that acts as the primary funding and information resource relating to genomics and proteomics in Canada. Dedicated to developing and implementing a national strategy in genomics and proteomics research for the benefit of all Canadians, it has received $600 million in funding from the Government of Canada to date.

Since 2000, Genome Canada has committed more than $560 million in genomics and proteomics research across Canada, which, when combined with funding from other partners, totals $1.2 billion in 112 innovative research projects and sophisticated science and technology platforms.

Genome Prairie is the lead organization for genomics research on the Prairies. In partnership with Genome Canada, Genome Prairie encourages the development of world- caliber genomics research on the Prairies and guides the development of the knowledge to positively impact the well-being of Canadians.

SOURCE: Genome Canada via CCNMatthews and COMTEX.