Scientific Advances
Natural compound speeds bone growth
Astronomers spy massive stars in the making
Frog gene map a leap forward for humans
Sun-shy mums may raise MS risk in babies
Soft fossils provide new target for ET search
Mammoth blood brought back to life
Outdoor exercise can boost self esteem
Athletes on growth hormone 'sprint faster'
Countdown begins to 520 day 'Mars mission'
Warmer planet to stress humans: study
Plasma rocket to shorten space voyages
Vaccine may trigger infant epilepsy onset
'Fingerprinting' points to dusty Australia
The hole in the ozone layer: 25 years on
Humans interbred with Neanderthals: analysis
Herschel shows star formation is slowing
Washing hands makes tough choices easier
'Face-book' to measure pain in mice
Science gives clues to World Cup success
Human sigh acts as a reset button
Expert confirms Phar Lap arsenic theory
Dictionary blunder a matter of gravity
Warning on high-dose vitamin D
Calling mum makes you feel better
'Trade-off' gene for plants discovered
A key gene that trades off a plant's size with its resistance to disease has been found.

Plant geneticist Dr Sureshkumar Balasubramanian, from the University of Queensland, and colleagues, report their findings in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Scientists know that plants that develop resistance to disease pay a high price for this trait, says Balasubramanian.

But now Balasubramanian and colleagues have discovered the gene responsible.

The discovery was made accidentally while studying mouse-ear cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) for genes that govern how fast the plant grows.

They found that the slow-growing plants had a very active form of the gene called ACD6.

"The plants that carry the hyperactive allele of this ACD6 gene pay a very heavy price," says Balasubramanian.

But when the researchers checked to see how these plants fared in the presence of a wide range of plant pathogens, including a fungus, bacteria and aphids, they saw another side to the story.

"In the presence of pathogens, these plants outperformed the other ones," says Balasubramanian.

Balasubramanian says this kind of trade-off also occurs in humans. For example, people with sickle-cell anaemia have a mutation in their haemoglobin gene that also confers resistance to malaria.

"In the presence of a particular pathogen you are willing to tolerate the cost," says Balasubramanian.

He says the hyperactive form is present in around 20% of the general Arabidopsis thaliana population.

This percentage will increase in the presence of disease and ensure the community will survive regardless of whether there is disease around.

Balasubramanian says the findings underpin the importance of genetic diversity in agriculture.

He adds scientists may be able to use such natural alleles in "green genetic engineering".

Balasubramanian says because they occur in nature, it means they are less likely to interfere with other traits.

"In a sense they have been naturally tested," he says.

Climate change impact on malaria questioned
Single lens glasses can help prevent falls
Movies manipulate our primal response
Luminescent sharks become invisible
Synthetic biology research gets a hearing
Source of ancient carbon 'burp' detected
Why the goddess of love is in a spin
Computer program recognises online sarcasm
New dinosaur had record-sized horns
Physicists solve missing neutrino mystery
Milk from grass-fed cows may be better
Crabs caught spying on rivals' love claws
Lifestyle may not boost breast cancer gene risk
'Trade-off' gene for plants discovered
Pacific islands growing, not sinking
Caffeine addicts get no real perk
Velvet worm's deadly slime revealed
SpaceX cleared for Florida lift-off
Cyborg rights 'need debating now'
Sunlight shines on silver technology
Mountain biking as risky as football, diving
Dusty simulations may reveal planets
Legal fight over breast cancer gene
Unions call for urgent nano information
Solar panel attraction deadly for insects
Meat eaters munched many ways: study
Snakes may be in decline worldwide
Dogs dumbed down by domestication
Fossil sheds new light on 'dino-bird'
DNA 'spiderbot' is on the prowl
GM cotton use increases fruit pest problem
Warming to kill off a fifth of all lizards
Super massive black hole given the boot
Ball lightning could be 'all in the mind'
Immune system could be used to test for TB
Mobile phone cancer link unclear, study
Teen brain wired to take risks
Synchrotron probes Egyptian beads
Argonauts 'gulp' air to swim freely
Space station gets a new room
'Digital genome' to protect dying data formats
Sweep yields leads for new malaria drugs
Researchers snap signs of illegal fishing
Spectrum reveals supernova surprise
Scientists create synthetic life
Eavesdropping a waste of energy
Star caught eating its offspring
Megafauna die-off may have cooled planet
Hepatitis C no longer 'death sentence'
Atoms bring quantum computing closer
Visualisation staves off constant craving
Experts debate homeopathy funding
Visit Statistics