Scientists at UC Riverside have successfully engineered a plant to change color in the presence of a toxic pesticide. The researchers were able to achieve this without damaging the plant’s ability to function normally in other ways. They used a protein called abscisic acid (ABA) to help the plant recognize and respond to changes in its environment. Normally, ABA helps the plant conserve water during droughts by closing its pores. However, the researchers trained the ABA receptors in the plant to bind to other chemicals as well, causing the plant to turn beet red when exposed to the banned pesticide azinphos-ethyl. This could serve as a visual indicator to detect the presence of the toxic chemical in the environment. The researchers also showed that they could turn yeast into a sensor for two different chemicals simultaneously. However, this capability is not yet possible in plants. There are hopes that this technology could be further developed to create plants that can sense multiple banned pesticides. However, further research and regulatory approvals would be needed before this technology could be used commercially. This discovery could have potential applications in monitoring environmental health and detecting the presence of chemicals like pesticides and pharmaceuticals in the water supply.
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