Biologists use sleep hormone to protect plants from pollution


TSU Biological Institute scientists are testing the ability of melatonin, the sleep hormone, to protect crops from various damaging factors: cold, drought, salinity, biopathogens, and others. Interim research results have shown that melatonin increases plants’ stress tolerance, enhancing the effectiveness of their antioxidant system. This property makes it promising for new biotechnologies in commercial agriculture.

- Melatonin is a rather “young” hormone, - explains Elena Danilova, a postgraduate student of the Department of Plant Physiology, Biotechnology, and Bioinformatics. - In 1995, melatonin was found in plants. In 2018, its first receptor was discovered, so researchers began experimenting with the sleep hormone as a tool for plant protection only a few years ago. But it has already been established that melatonin demonstrates antioxidant, immunostimulating, and anti-stress effects not only in humans but also in plants. This makes it promising for solving the problem of soil and plant pollution.

For example, a big problem for the environment, including farmland, is the high concentration of heavy metals in soils due to emissions from industrial plants, the use of fertilizers, and improper wastewater treatment. Cereals (some of the most sought-after crops) are often negatively affected by excess metal in the soil.

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