Using rice as a model, we show that there exist three different root niches hosting different microbial communities of eubacteria and methanogenic archaea. These microbial communities are affected by geographical location, soil source, host genotype, and cultivation practice.
Really enjoyed reading the biographies of Dennis Hoagland and William Chander, who collaborated on studies of mineral nutrition of plants. This quote from Chandler is abridged from a speech he gave during the second world war, but it's just as appropriate now.
New week, new year. What better time to have a lab / course / departmental conversation about what is and isn't permitted in data handling? This 2013 editorial by Mike Blatt and Cathie Martin is a good place to start, and includes some additional useful references.
I like the idea of this - have students make their own LED & Lego-based colorimeter, & then explore the world! The article says that an LED can emit current proportional to the light that hits it, and recommends using a red LED as sensor and yellow, green or orange LEDs as emitters.
Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet
Mary Williams's insight:
Important paper updating the areas of concern for keeping the planet in the "safe operating zone" - note the danger coming from the P and N biogeochemical flows, which are entirely a consequence of the use of agricultural fertilizers.
"We in the biochemistry community are truly standing on the shoulders of giantesses.
In recognition of this fact, the Biochemical Society commissioned a research project into the lives and work of prominent female biochemists from 1945-1975 as part of our recent Women in Biochemistry year.
Today, we release the result of this project: Women in Biochemistry: 1945 –1975 – a collection of interviews and profiles that paints an insightful picture of the day-to-day happenings, motivations, hurdles and successes of women working in molecular biology at the time".
Plants rely on their associated microbiota for crucial physiological activities; realization of this interaction drives research to understand inter-domain communication. This opinion article focuses on the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis, which involves the Glomeromycota, fungi that can form a symbiosis with most plants. Here we propose the hypothesis that the molecules involved in inter-kingdom symbiotic signaling, such as strigolactones, cutin monomers, and chitin-related molecules, also have key roles in development, originally unrelated to symbiosis. Thus, the symbiotic role of these molecules relies on the co-evolved capacity of the AM partners to perceive and interpret them as symbiotic signals.
Grist journalist Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) continues to write good, evidence-based articles on all aspects of food. His even-handed approach was recognized with the ASPB Leadership in Science Public Service Award (http://my.aspb.org/?page=AF_Awards#leadership).
Two plant-based hashtags were popular this year on social media:
I just found this - useful collection of article about modeling in biology. The 2010 article by Lander, "The edges of understanding" would be a good way to start a discussion about the hows and whys of biologica modeling with your students.
"While some areas show no significant influence of climate variability, in substantial areas of the global breadbaskets, >60% of the yield variability can be explained by climate variability. Globally, climate variability accounts for roughly a third (~32–39%) of the observed yield variability." Nice paper to remind students of the need for genetic diversity even within major crops like rice, wheat, maize and soybean, as they are grown in regions with tremendously varying conditions and stresses.
Symbioses represent a frequent and successful lifestyle on earth and lichens are one of their classic examples. Recently, bacterial communities were identified as stable, specific and structurally integrated partners of the lichen symbiosis, but their role has remained largely elusive in comparison to the well-known functions of the fungal and algal partners. We have explored the metabolic potentials of the microbiome using the lung lichen Lobaria pulmonaria as the model. Metagenomic and proteomic data were comparatively assessed and visualized by Voronoi treemaps. The study was complemented with molecular, microscopic and physiological assays. We have found that more than 800 bacterial species have the ability to contribute multiple aspects to the symbiotic system, including essential functions such as (i) nutrient supply, especially nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur, (ii) resistance against biotic stress factors (that is, pathogen defense), (iii) resistance against abiotic factors, (iv) support of photosynthesis by provision of vitamin B12, (v) fungal and algal growth support by provision of hormones, (vi) detoxification of metabolites, and (vii) degradation of older parts of the lichen thallus. Our findings showed the potential of lichen-associated bacteria to interact with the fungal as well as algal partner to support health, growth and fitness of their hosts. We developed a model of the symbiosis depicting the functional multi-player network of the participants, and argue that the strategy of functional diversification in lichens supports the longevity and persistence of lichens under extreme and changing ecological conditions.
Biosensors: Plant biologists FRET over stress. Two independent research labs have developed fluorescent biosensors to report the levels of the stress hormone, abscisic acid, within cells in living plants in real-time. http://elifesciences.org/content/3/e02763
CourseSource.CourseSource is an open-access journal of peer-reviewed teaching resources for undergraduate biological sciences; the development of these resources, including plant-based resources, was supported by ASPB and BSA. http://www.coursesource.org/
One of the biggest stories of 2014 was the spread of Ebola Virus Disease, and antibodies produced in plants are one of the few therapies shown to be effective. Plant-derived antibodies produced by MAPP pharmaceuticals in tobacco had previously been tested successfully on monkeys (http://www.pnas.org/content/109/44/18030), but this summer were used to save the lives of two American missionaries (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/03/health/ebola-tobacco-plant/). Plant-production of phamaceuticals (aka molecular pharming) can be cheaper than production in animals or cell lines, and this year has demonstrated this technology to be fast, versatile and effective.
"Professor Dean receives the award for her outstanding contributions to plant biology, in particular for her work to understand how changes in temperature affect the molecular events that control the timing and duration of flowering in higher plants."
eLife - Open access to the most promising advances in science
Mary Williams's insight:
A new article in eLIFE, "Teaching for the future" (http://elifesciences.org/content/4/e05846) discusses the educational value of reading classic scientific papers. Yes, it's true - many of the older papers are fascinating, show extraordinary insights, and reveal the development of our understanding of life processes. Here's a classic of plant science: Arnon et al, (1961). "Photosynthetic phosphorylation and molecular oxygen" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC223142/