Machine learning unlocks plants' secrets

phys.org | 2/14/2019 | Staff
darkkazune (Posted by) Level 3
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Credit: Michigan State University Shin-Han Shiu is a professor of plant biology at MSU. He and colleagues recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Credit: G.L. Kohuth.

Plants are master chemists, and Michigan State University researchers have unlocked their secret of producing specialized metabolites.

Research - Issue - Proceedings - National - Academy

The research, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combined plant biology and machine learning to sort through tens of thousands of genes to determine which genes make specialized metabolites.

Some metabolites attract pollinators while others repel pests. Ever wonder why deer eat tulips and not daffodils? It's because daffodils have metabolites to fend off the critters who'd dine on them.

Results - Plants - Development - Pharmaceuticals - Pesticides

The results could potentially lead to improved plants but also to the development of plant-based pharmaceuticals and environmentally safe pesticides, said Shin-Han Shiu, an MSU plant computational biologist.

"Plants are amazing – they are their own mini factories, and we wanted to recreate what they do in a lab to produce synthetic chemicals to make drugs, disease-resistant crops and even artificial flavors," Shiu said. "Our research found that it is possible to pick out the right gene by automating the process since machines are more capable of picking out minute differences among thousands of genes."

Approach - Team - Biochemists - Biologists - Model

Taking a machine-learning approach, an interdisciplinary team of biochemists and computational biologists created a model that looked at more than 30,000 genes in Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant that is called the "lab rat of plant science."

The model is based on technology used by e-commerce...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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