Scientists have solved a long-running mystery about the first stages of plant life on earth. The team of researchers from the John Innes Centre, the University of Wisconsin – Madison and other international collaborators, has discovered how ancient algae were able to inhabit land, before it went on to evolve into the world’s first plant and colonise the earth. The discovery shows for the first time that the algae already knew how to survive on land while it was still in the water.
Or, in more technical terms, " We conclude that the most recent common ancestor of extant land plants and green algae was preadapted for symbiotic associations. Subsequent improvement of this precursor stage in early land plants through rounds of gene duplication led to the acquisition of additional pathways and the ability to form a fully functional arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis."
Mary Williams's insight:
Here's a link to the paper that this video describes - I think it's really cool. Inferring evolutionary mechanisms of land colonization from genomics of algae and land plants.
(I’ll add to this list if you let me know of other botany-biased reviews).
The film opens this week, and the preview reviews have already been quite positive. Several of us scattered around the world are planning to go on Friday 2 October, as a sort of virtual film club. Why don’t you join us? I look forward to hearing the perceptions of the plant science community.
This is a fascinating set of calculations from John Innes Centre about how may plants we eat each day. Rather than present students with the final numbers, it would be more engaging to provide them with the starting data (found on this page https://www.jic.ac.uk/calculations/#) and let them work out the values for themselves.
Bats initiate vital agroecological interactions in corn (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/40/12438). Summary here (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/40/12223.extract). Corn field enclosed at night to keep out bats suffered much more damage from corn earworm, and carried higher levels of fungal toxins associated with earworm damage. "The results suggest the importance of conserving insectivorous bats, which are threatened in many parts of the world."
New research shows just how much different regions of the world rely on each other for the foods they know and love – and why it’s time to share This world is really messed up. Especially when it c...
Mary Williams's insight:
Really interesting study on the origins of the foods we eat, and why it's important to maintain the genetic diversity of their relatives, which are often found elsewhere. Good overview and a downloadable PDF.
This week’s Research in Focus is reprinted from an In Brief published by Science Editor Nancy Hoffman in The Plant Cell, which summarizes an article newly published by Gerttula et al. This study examines the formation of tension wood, a specialized tissue that forms on the upper side of a fallen woody angiosperm stem that exerts force to vertically reorient the stem. The authors develop a model that leads from gravity perception through hormonal and transcriptional responses to the anatomical changes associated with this unusual and important type of wood.
Researchers from Ghent University succeeded in stabilizing folates in biofortified rice, which can offer a solution to serious health problems caused by folate deficiency in developing countries.
Adults need approximately 400 microgram of folates per day to remain healthy... which is increased to 600 microgram for pregnant women. Folates are abundant in green leafy vegetables (folium is Latin for leaf), such as spinach and legumes (e.g. beans). Most staple crops, such as rice and other cereals, contain very low amounts of this vitamin.
Inadequate folate intake can have severe effects on human health. In addition to certain forms of anemia, folate deficiency in pregnant women can result in an impaired development of the neural tube (the precursor of the spinal cord) of the embryo. These developmental problems often result in spina bifida: the so-called “cleft spine”. Folate deficiency is also associated with Alzheimer disease, cardio-vascular diseases and the development of a range of cancers.
Due to the marginal levels of folate in rice, consumed by about half the world population as sole energy source, folate deficiency is highly prevalent in developing countries. Several studies show that in certain regions of e.g. China and India the occurrence of neural tube defects is at least 10-fold higher than in Western countries.
Vitamins are unstable molecules that degrade easily upon contact with oxygen, light, humidity, increased temperatures and changes in acidity. For this reason, it is important to consume... vegetables and fruit as fresh as possible. A lot of vitamins get lost, not only during food processing and preparation, but also during storage. Evidently, these problems occur in... products that are stored for a longer period, such as rice... These stability problems become more severe in developing countries where the storage in high temperature and high humidity is inevitable.
In 2007, a research team from Ghent University... reported the development of a first generation of rice lines with 100-fold higher folate levels as compared to normal rice... Their new study shows that about half of the folate content in these rice lines degrades after half a year. To tackle this problem, researchers... developed a new rice prototype, in which the folate content remains stable upon long term storage... They were able to stabilize this high folate content in a new rice prototype...
A first strategy comprised the binding of folates with a folate binding protein. This protein is unknown in plants, but well studied in mammals. It occurs in e.g. milk and protects folate from degradation. This is also the way intact folates are passed on from the mother to her infant, to support its development. By expressing a synthetic gene, based on a folate binding protein from bovine milk, in the rice grain, the same principle is applied and folate content remains stable upon long term storage...
Moreover, it is fairly easy to make combinations with other interesting traits, such as the enhancement of other vitamins or certain minerals, such as iron. This technology can also be used in other crops, both cereals (e.g. wheat, sorghum) and non-cereals (e.g. potato, banana)...
The stability issue is often underestimated or even neglected in biofortification programs. It is obvious that not only high, but also stable vitamin levels are important to tackle vitamin deficiencies. Not only does this study describe the effect of long term storage on the folate levels in the first rice prototypes, it also provides an elegant solution to the stability problem. This solution can be applied, in a customized form, to other crops and vitamins and opens the door for awareness and consideration of vitamin stability in future biofortification studies.
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