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06/27/2019 HYU News > Academics > 이달의연구자


[Excellent R&D] Discovery of Brassino-steroid-Responsive Transcription Factor BZR1

Professor Kim Tae-wuk (Department of Life Science)


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The world is currently experiencing the fastest-growing technological developments in history. Much of this is due to the emergence of 5th Generation Wireless Communication (5G) which has enabled a wholly different aspect to the developments. Due to the intensively increasing level of convenience brought about by technology, people have began to realize the importance of innovation; therefore, a number of renowned industries are concentrating on creating new developments. As the trend nowadays seeks future-oriented objectives, interest in purely scientific endeavors has significantly decreased. Despite such a reality, Professor Kim Tae-wuk (Department of Life Science) and his lab students have discovered a new hormone called brassino-steroid (BZR1), which is a renovative detection in the field of a plant’s life.
Professor Kim Tae-wuk (Department of Life Science) and his lab students have discovered a hormone named brassino-steroid that has an important relationship with a plant’s life.

All human-beings possess hormones within their bodies, and these hormones have a significant impact on living organisms. Plants are particularly dependent on hormones. For example, if specific hormones are created within the plant, certain physiological transformations due to cellular reaction may occur; thus, it could be said that if the input is a hormone, the output is a physiological response. Kim wanted to innovate a signal transduction pathway so that entering a certain hormone would produce a corresponding and desirable phenomena. After much exhaustive research, Kim discovered the existence of BZR1, the key hormone responsible for a plant’s growth. BZR1 interacts with proteins, and if such a hormone is introduced, the receptors in the cell membrane perceive the hormone and begin to interact with each other, fostering growth. This is called the transcription factor. Kim notes, “The signal transduction procedure is merely the respective connection among proteins. They have to physically combine together first. However, the element I have figured out is that the transcription factor is not always prepared; rather, it is inactivated. In fact, we detected a new protein that promotes decomposition of the transcription factor, eventually disturbing the growth of the plant. This negative regulator is called Plant U-Box 40 (PUB40).” Interesting enough, PUB40 can only be found in the plant’s roots, and the greater the number of such a factor existing within the roots, the more it suppresses the growth. Fortunately, PUB40 can be artificially removed which enables the acceleration of plant growth and amplification of the root size.
Kim’s lab successfully discovered the existence of Plant U-Box 40 which hinders the growth of the plant, and also how it can be removed artificially.

Kim emphasizes the importance of conducting research on plants as it can be helpful to humankind. By manipulating certain factors within the plant, humans can control the speed of their growth. When wheat, barley, rice, and other sources of nutrition were vulnerable to rain and wind due to their large root size several decades ago, scholars discovered mutant hormones that reduce the size of the root, thereby allowing them to withstand the harsh weather. Smaller roots enabled an increase in the possible harvest per unit area and led to green evolution, directly addressing the world's food deficit problem. Furthermore, plant research has great potential in terms of dealing with fine dust issues. The openings in plants' epidermal layer called stoma constantly open and close at regular intervals. Throughout this process, moisture and air go in and out. Kim explains, “Current development only opens enough to suck in fine particulate matters, not fine dust. In this regard, finding certain mutant hormones that expand the size of the stoma will allow the absorption of fine dust, contributing to a benefit for society as a result.”
Kim (front center) insists that conducting research on plants for purposes that aim to help humankind is important, as it has engendered green evolution which alleviated the world's food deficit problem and may potentially deal with current fine dust issues.

Kim had a hard time mapping the location where the phosphorylation of proteins occurs due to the absence of a necessary piece of equipment - a mass spectrometer. Kim insisted, “Hanyang University did not possess such gear, so I had to ask other facilities. However, there were no advanced mass spectrometers in Korea, and I decided to request a collaboration with Stanford University which has technical facilities capable of analyzing the samples.”

Unlike moving creatures, plants are stationary. Thus, it is essential to notice how they adapt to the environment. Whereas humans and animals are less vulnerable when it comes to a shortage in nutrients, plants are extremely sensitive in terms of survival and growth depending on the surrounding environment. Kim concludes that “plants have to passively adapt to the environment throughout their entire life, and it is fascinating how they evolved through such changing nature.”

Kim Min-jae
Photos by Kim Joo-eun
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