"I find that students become more engaged in their studies when there is a creative element, and that element often expresses itself artistically. This can be seen here. Thus, in last semester's microbiology course, I gave my students the opportunity to have an extra credit "creative" project revolving around microbiology."
" We demonstrate that in plants with a reduced cytokinin status the D1 protein level was strongly decreased upon light stress.... The efficiency of photoprotective mechanisms, such as non-enzymatic and enzymatic scavenging systems, was decreased in plants with a reduced cytokinin status which could be a cause for the increased photodamage and subsequent D1 degradation....We conclude that proper cytokinin signaling and regulation of specific target genes is necessary to protect plants efficiently from light stress."
Mary Williams's insight:
Nice molecular link between cytokinin signaling and protection from photodamage.
"Forests are major components of the global carbon cycle, providing substantial feedback to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.... Here we present a global analysis of 403 tropical and temperate tree species, showing that for most species mass growth rate increases continuously with tree size."
Green dots are eucalyptus and red are coast redwoods - very big trees and still growing!
Mary Williams's insight:
This study shows that although the rate of carbon fixed per leaf may be lower for larger trees, it's made up for by the fact that leaf area scales with the square of trunk diameter- so big trees are major carbon fixers.
(In other words, let's protect our old-growth forests!).
" Molecular and genetic evidence indicates that ABP1 affects the expression of a broad range of cell wall–related genes, especially cell wall remodeling genes, mainly via an SCFTIR/AFB-dependent pathway. ABP1 also functions in the modulation of hemicellulose xyloglucan structure... In muro remodeling of xyloglucan side chains via an ABP1-dependent pathway appears to be of critical importance for temporal and spatial control of cell expansion."
Mary Williams's insight:
Nice study into the function of the the ABP1 auxin receptor
"When you take a sip of red wine or black tea, you’re swallowing a stiff swig of tannins. These astringent plant chemicals give the beverages their characteristic pucker. Now, the part of plant cells that makes and transports tannins — long overlooked by botanists — has at last been discovered, hiding right under our noses."
This by Michael Eisen (Berkeley) is worth reading - "What is most disturbing about the GMO debate – and why it matters – is that the anti-GMO movement at almost every turn rejects empiricism as a means of understanding the world and making decisions about it" - written in response to Nathanial Johnson's epic series of articles that conclude with "none of it matters"
"As illustrated in this special issue, quantitative genetics is a dynamic and expanding field. New developments in methodologies (molecular and statistical) coupled with new theoretical approaches (such as associative effects models where members of a group influence the trait value of a focal individual) have significant implications for evolutionary biologists, breeders, and human geneticists."
"Though few and far between, phototropism studies through 1937 established a number of important principles. (1) Blue light is the active spectral region. (2) The phototropic stimulus is perceived by the coleoptile tip, and the consequences of the stimulation progress down into the growing region. (3) Lateral transport of auxin mediates the curvature response.,..."
"The orange carotenoid protein (OCP) serves as a sensor of light intensity and an effector of phycobilisome (PB)–associated photoprotection in cyanobacteria. Structurally, the OCP is composed of two distinct domains spanned by a single carotenoid chromophore. Functionally, in response to high light, the OCP converts from a dark-stable orange form, OCPO, to an active red form, OCPR. The C-terminal domain of the OCP has been implicated in the dynamic response to light intensity and plays a role in switching off the OCP’s photoprotective response through its interaction with the fluorescence recovery protein. "
"Here we show that perennial bioenergy crops provide an alternative to annual grains that increases biodiversity of multiple taxa and sustain a variety of ecosystem functions, promoting the creation of multifunctional agricultural landscapes. We found that switchgrass and prairie plantings harbored significantly greater plant, methanotrophic bacteria, arthropod, and bird diversity than maize."
"Extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) is an essential signaling molecule that is perceived in mammals by plasma membrane P2-type purinoceptors. Similar ATP receptors do not exist in plants, although extracellular ATP has been shown to play critical roles in plant growth, development, and stress responses. Here, we identify an ATP-insensitive Arabidopsis mutant, dorn1 (Does not Respond to Nucleotides 1)."
Mary Williams's insight:
Interesting. For a historical perspective on the role of ATP as an extacellular signal in animals, see this article in Bioessays:
"Plants survive adverse conditions by modulating their growth in response to a changing environment. Gibberellins (GAs) play a key role in these adaptive responses by stimulating the degradation of growth-repressing DELLA proteins. GA binding to its receptor GID1 enables association of GID1 with DELLAs. This leads to the ubiquitin-mediated proteasomal degradation of DELLAs and consequently growth promotion. We report that DELLA-dependent growth control can be regulated independently of GA. We demonstrate that when a proportion of DELLAs is conjugated to the Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier (SUMO) protein, the extent of conjugation increases during stress."
As 2013 drew to a close, we finished revising and updating the Teaching Tool about "Plants and Arthropods" [arthropods are insects + arachnids (mites) and others, and as mites are important interactors of plants, we used the broader classification!].
This one is written with Merijn Kant, who has a real appreciation for the tug-of-war that goes on between these two groups - how do plants simultaneously defend against herbivores and attract pollinators? It also has a good introduction to the very hot field of chemical ecology.
The moss Physcomitrella patens has a number of advantages for the production of biopharmaceuticals, including: i) availability of standardized conditions for cultivation in bioreactors; ii) not being part of the food chain; iii) high biosafety; iv) availability of highly efficient transformation methods; v) a haploid, fully sequenced genome providing genetic stability and uniform expression; vi) efficient gene targeting at the nuclear level allows for the generation of mutants with specific post-translational modifications (e.g., glycosylation patterns); and vii) oral formulations are a viable approach as no toxic effects are attributed to ingestion of this moss. In the light of this panorama, this opinion paper analyzes the possibilities of using P. patens for the production of oral vaccines and presents some specific cases where its use may represent significant progress in the field of plant-based vaccine development. The advantages represented by putative adjuvant effects of endogenous secondary metabolites and producing specific glycosylation patterns are highlighted
A UW-Madison expert on vanilla orchids crosses the world to ensure that the spice it produces remains a valuable agricultural product.
Madison— To Ken Cameron, vanilla is a lot sexier than its name implies.
The world's leading expert on the biology of vanilla orchids sees the popular spice, not as plain or ordinary, but as a beautifully complex and valuable commodity produced from the world's largest family of plants.
While bottles of vanilla extract fly off store shelves at this time of year as holiday bakers mix it into cakes, pies and cookies, vanilla is much more than a pastry chef's favorite spice.
Deodorants, household cleaners, popular brands of vodka, pill coatings, the finest perfumes, even Coke and Pepsi count vanilla as an ingredient. And, of course, it's the No. 1 selling ice cream.
"I often tell people, 'I'll challenge you that within 10 minutes of waking, you will encounter vanilla,'" Cameron said in his book- and plant-filled office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he's a botany professor and director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium."
"Plant cells are immobilized by their rigid cells walls, and the root endodermal cell layer maintains a impervious perimeter seal made of an indigestible irregular polymer. Despite these mechanical obstacles, lateral root primordia, which initiate in the deep layers of the root, manage to break through to the surface. Vermeer et al. used live-tissue imaging and genetics to show that signals are exchanged between the root primordium and the handful of cells overlying it, which then cave in on themselves to open up a channel for the growing root primordium. "
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