Today I end a 5-year run at Deep Sea News. I'm sad that I am unable to continuing committing to this great group, and indeed science and science communication more generally.
Mary Williams's insight:
I think you'll enjoy reading this very personal account of Kevin's sometimes frustrating experiences as a scientist and science writer. From unsupportive and obstructionist PhD advisors to money worries, stress, and the struggle to spend time with children, but finally a new start. Go Kevin!
"Across the globe, scientists and policy-makers are studying how climate change will affect agriculture. But in China, the question is especially urgent. The country has roughly 20% of the world's population but only 7% of its arable land—a share that is shrinking in the face of rapid urbanization"
"Invasive Species: any species of insects, animals, plants and pathogens, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem; and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health."
Legumes control the nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis in response to external and internal stimuli, such as nitrate, and via systemic autoregulation of nodulation (AON). Overexpression of the CLV3/ESR-related (CLE) pre-propeptide-encoding genes GmNIC1 (nitrate-induced and acting locally) and GmRIC1 (Bradyrhizobium-induced and acting systemically) suppresses soybean nodulation dependent on the activity of the nodulation autoregulation receptor kinase (GmNARK). This nodule inhibition response was used to assess the relative importance of key structural components within and around the CLE domain sequences of these genes. Using a site-directed mutagenesis approach, mutants were produced at each amino acid within the CLE domain (RLAPEGPDPHHN) ofGmRIC1. This approach identified the Arg1, Ala3, Pro4, Gly6, Pro7, Asp8, His11, and Asn12 residues as critical to GmRIC1 nodulation suppression activity (NSA). In contrast, none of the mutations in conserved residues outside of the CLE domain showed compromised NSA. Chimeric genes derived from combinations of GmRIC1 and GmNIC1 domains were used to determine the role of each pre-propeptide domain in NSA differences that exist between the two peptides. It was found that the transit peptide and CLE peptide regions of GmRIC1 significantly enhanced activity of GmNIC1. In contrast, the comparable GmNIC1 domains reduced the NSA of GmRIC1. Identification of these critical residues and domains provides a better understanding of how these hormone-like peptides function in plant development and regulation.
Domesticated maize make 8-20 rows of kernels, whereas its ancestor teosinte makes 2 rows.We show that variation in the CLAVATA receptor–like protein FASCIATED EAR2 leads to increased inflorescence meristem size and kernel row number. These findings indicate that modulation of fundamental stem cell proliferation control pathways has the potential to enhance crop yields.
What would be the long-term impacts of planting trees in Europe?
"Large contiguous forest blocks can have distinctive biogeophysical effect on the climate on regional and local scale. In certain regions of the temperate zone, climate change signal due to greenhouse gas emission can be reduced by afforestation due to the dominant evaporative cooling effect during summer."
Researchers marshal technology in bid to thwart fungal outbreak in Central America. - Where there is coffee, there is ‘coffee rust’. But the long stalemate between growers and the fungus behind the devastating disease has broken — with the fungus taking the advantage. As one of the most severe outbreaks ever rages through Central America, researchers are reaching for the latest tools in an effort to combat the pest, from sequencing its genome to cross-breeding coffee plants with resistant strains. Caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, coffee rust generally does not kill plants, but the Institute of Coffee of Costa Rica estimates that the latest outbreak may halve the 2013–14 harvest in the worst affected areas of the nation. This outbreak is “the worst we’ve seen in Central America and Mexico since the rust arrived” in the region more than 40 years ago, says John Vandermeer, an ecologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who has received “reports of devastation in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico”.
"Carbohydrates are thought to play a crucial role in the regulation of flowering, and trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P) has been suggested to function as a proxy for carbohydrate status in plants. The loss of TREHALOSE-6-PHOSPHATE SYNTHASE 1 (TPS1) causes Arabidopsis thaliana to flower extremely late, even under otherwise inductive environmental conditions. This suggests that TPS1 is required for the timely initiation of flowering. We show that the T6P pathway affects flowering both in the leaves and at the shoot meristem, and integrate TPS1 into the existing genetic framework of flowering-time control. "
Mary Williams's insight:
Great! Trehalose-6-phophate is such an interesting molecule....
"We are a chemophobic culture. Chemical has become a synonym for something artificial, adulterated, hazardous, or toxic. Chemicals are bad—for you, for your children, for the environment. But whatever chemophobics would like to think, there is no avoiding chemicals, no way to create chemical-free zones. Absolutely everything is made of atoms and molecules; it’s all chemistry."
Mary Williams's insight:
This is good! Is it safer to treat your ailments with "Spirit of feathers" or "Four-marvels powder" than "Naproxen" or "Amethopterin"? Why do people put more trust in chemicals if they have warm and friendly names?
It's not just chemophobia, it's also chem-illiteracy!
Plant growth is regulated by a multiplicity of factors, many of which are transduced via hormone signaling. However, how these hormone signals converge to affect growth is not entirely clear (reviewed in Depuydt and Hardtke, 2011). New work from Ikeda et al. (pages 4483–4497, November 2012) and Bai et al. (pages 4917–4929) demonstrates that the cell elongation component of growth is regulated by a mechanism involving groups of three basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors (some of which lack the basic domain).
The VAS1 aminotransferase regulates the shade avoidance response in Arabidopsis thaliana by shunting metabolic flux away from auxin and ethylene, two growth regulatory plant hormones.- from the Chory and Noel labs at the Salk Institute.
Looking for some very basic resources for teaching statistics, I found this excellent article from "Significance", the magazine of the Royal Statistics Society. It's a terrific plant biology exercise for 9 year olds - which leaves are bigger, those in the sun or the shade?
"In October 2012 an international symposium at the University of Munich in Germany entitled “Endosymbiosis: From Prokaryotes to Eukaryotic Organelles” highlighted many of the fundamental aspects surrounding the endosymbiotic process as well as mitochondrial and plastid function. Many colleagues who attended the conference contributed to this special volume in “Planta” on “Biogenesis and Function of Chloroplasts and Mitochondria”. It provides a number of fascinating peer-reviewed articles on how these organelles perform today, how their interplay works and what challenges we face in the future."
Although plant-to-plant interactions have been studied by ecologists for decades, we're only recently learning about these interactions at the molecular scale. As our Teaching Tool describes, the applications of this knowledge range from forestry management to mitigating the challenges of invasive species, and the design of better agroecosystems. Look for it in March.
In case you missed it, there's a special issue on 'The plant thylakoid membrane: structure, organization, assembly and dynamic response to the environment' in Dec 2012 Phil Trans Roy Soc B. Lots of fine reviews!