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Plants Engineered to Express a Fruit Fly Gene May Help Clean Up Environmental Pollutant

Through a process called phytoremediation, researchers are using plants to clean up land contaminated with TNT, a toxic environmental pollutant and possible carcinogen. Now a new study shows how a gene found in the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, can be used by Arabidopsis plants to improve TNT removal from contaminated soil.

When investigators engineered Arabidopsis plants to express the glutathione transferase (DmGSTE6) gene found in fruit flies, they found that plants expressing the gene were more resistant to TNT and were better able to remove it from contaminated soil than wild-type plants without the gene.

“Areas of land contaminated with explosives are a threat to human health and the environment. We know that TNT does not readily break down in the environment, but by using specially developed plants we could be able to tackle this problem,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rylott, co-author of the New Phytologist study.