Experts find key to plant sunscreen

EXPERTS at a Scottish university have spent two years carrying out a study investigating why plants do not get sunburn.

Glasgow University researchers spent the final two years of a 15-year research project, trying to discover how plants survive the harmful rays of the sun.

UV-B wavelengths are the most powerful part of the daylight spectrum and are potentially damaging both to humans and plants.

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However, plants rarely show signs of damage because they protect themselves from harmful rays by making their own chemical sunscreen in their leaves.

Last year, the group of scientists discovered that a protein called UVR8 detects the presence of UV-B and initiates the process of protection.

Now a paper published in Science magazine, reveals more details of the molecular structure of the protein UVR8 and explains how it senses UV-B light.

Gareth Jenkins, Professor of Plant Cell and Molecular Biology at Glasgow University and co-author on the paper, described the paper’s findings as “groundbreaking”.

Prof Jenkins said: “The search for this UV-B photoreceptor was something of a Holy Grail for plant photobiologists and we were very pleased last year when we discovered this.

“Now, with our collaborators we have found that UVR8 detects UV-B by an entirely novel mechanism.”