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Online Laboratory Magazine
07/25/2021

05/20/2015

Scientists identify key components in the formation of rubber

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Dandelions are robust and undemanding plants - from which a desirable product can be extracted: rubber. This is why dandelions have increasingly become the focus of attention of the rubber-producing industry. But how is rubber, contained in the plant's white milky fluid, actually formed? There has not been any complete answer to this question yet, but a team headed by Münster University and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME (Münster branch), has now identified proteins which play a key role in the production of rubber in the plant.

The milky fluid containing the rubber is produced in special cells in the dandelion. What is responsible for the formation - the biosynthesis - of the rubber is a protein complex located on the surface of so-called rubber particles. These globular particles are filled with polyisoprene, the main component of rubber, and are surrounded by a protective coating. As the researchers have been able to demonstrate, using the example of Russian dandelion, there is one special protein (a so-called rubber transferase activator) which plays a key role. If the formation of the protein is prevented - in other words, if it is non-existent in the plant - then no rubber is formed. The scientists assume that the protein is necessary for the formation of the rubber-producing protein complex. Their results have been published in the current online issue of the specialist journal "Nature Plants". Scientists from Munich Technical University and from York, in England, were also involved in the work. A second study, which was likewise carried out with substantial input from researchers from IME and Münster University, identifies a further important protein which plays a key role in the formation of the long polyisoprene chains. These so-called polymers give the rubber its typical properties - its elasticity and resilience.

As Dr. Dirk Prüfer, Professor of the Biotechnology of Plants at Münster University and head of the Functional and Applied Genomics department at the IME in Münster, points out: "We were only able to achieve these research results through effective collaboration between IME and Münster University - in other words, through the intelligent linking of applications-oriented and basic research. We hope to be able to continue to expand on this model for success."

» Original publication 1

» Original publication 2

Source: University of Münster