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Transgenic plant aequorin reports the effects of touch and cold-shock and elicitors on cytoplasmic calcium


METHODS for measuring plant cytoplasmic calcium using micro-electrodes or microinjected fluorescent dyes are associated with extensive technical problems, so measurements have been limited to single or small groups of cells in tissue strips or protoplasts1,2. Aequorin is a calcium-sensitive luminescent protein3 from the coelenterate Aequorea Victoria (A. forskalea) which is formed from apoaequorin, a polypeptide of relative molecular mass 22,000, and coelenterazine, a hydrophobic luminophore4. Microinjected aequorin has been widely used for intracellular calcium measurement in animal cells4, but its use in plants has been limited to exceptionally large cells5. We show here that aequorin can be reconstituted in transformed plants and that it reports calcium changes induced by touch, cold-shock and fungal elicitors. Reconstituted aequorin is cytoplasmic and nonperturbing; measurements can be made on whole plants and a calcium indicator can be constituted in every viable cell. Now that apoaequorin can be targeted to specific organelles, cells and tissues, with the range of coelenterazines with differing calcium sensitivities and properties available6, this new method could be valuable for determining the role of calcium in intracellular signalling processes in plants.

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Knight, M., Campbell, A., Smith, S. et al. Transgenic plant aequorin reports the effects of touch and cold-shock and elicitors on cytoplasmic calcium. Nature 352, 524–526 (1991).

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