(PORTUGAL)

Researchers in Portugal have discovered two genes in baker’s yeast that can help plants grow in difficult environments.

Paula Duque – from the country’s Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC) – led a team which found the genes could support growth – even in contaminated soils.

“Current strategies to decontaminate soils are very expensive and not so effective. The scientific community has been looking for alternative strategies to make plants more resilient to toxic compounds. A possible solution may lie in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast used for baking, brewing, and winemaking,” Paula said.

The team injected the genes into a flowering plant, called Arabidopsis thaliana, which then demonstrated it could fight off a ‘range of toxic substances’.

“These two yeast genes produce proteins that are able to expel molecules from cells. So we hypothesized that they could play a similar role in plants, eliminating toxic molecules and allowing normal growth. To extrapolate these results to crops, we will need further experiments in Arabidopsis to understand the mechanisms underlying plant resistance as well as studies in other plant species. But our results, obtained with genes of the yeast species that makes bread or beer, hold much promise to help solve a difficult environmental problem,” added Paula.