Fluorescent foliage: Researchers grow glow-in-the-dark plants with help from mushroom DNA

glowing plants side view

Fans of the “Avatar” movie will have long dreamed of lush jungles teeming with glowing plants. But fluorescent foliage may no longer be the stuff of science fiction, as scientists have found a way to grow glow-in-the-dark plants, which radiate and maintain a mysterious green gleam for their whole life cycle.

Bioluminescence — the emission of light by an organism — occurs in a wide range of animals and microorganisms, including some fungi, insects, fish, marine invertebrates and bacteria. Some of the most famous examples of the phenomena include the flickering of fireflies, or the crashing of electric blue waves in tropical seas.

After discovering that the bioluminescence found in some mushrooms was metabolically similar to some of the natural processes found in plants, scientists were able transfer DNA sequences into tobacco plants, causing them to give off a bright green glow. Researchers found that this glow lasted for the whole of the plant’s life cycle, from seedling to maturity.

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“We show that you can transfer four genes from these glowing mushrooms into the plants — and wire them into plant metabolisms — so that the plants start to glow in the dark,” Karen Sarkisyan, one of the lead authors of [the study said].

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