Master switch turns plant sex life on and off

University of Melbourne researchers have isolated a genetic ‘switch’ that can be turned on or off to alter the development of sex cells in plants.

The discovery brings understanding of fertilisation in plants to a new level, and is an important step towards growing greater amounts of food through increased fertilisation of crop plants. Professors Mohan Singh and Prem Bhalla, who head the University’s Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Laboratory in the Faculty of Land and Food Resources, analysed the genetic makeup of white lilies and other flowering plants to identify a germline-restrictive silencing factor (GRSF).

The GRSF is a protein, which is present in all plants during growth and can be turned off to effectively block the development of sex cells in plants.

Plants that produce pollen-causing hay fever may be able to have their sex cell development – and therefore pollen production – turned off.

For more information: University of Melbourne,

Prof. Mohan Singh, Tel: +61 3 8344 5051,