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.
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.”