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Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
Hooks and hot topics for university teachers and students
Curated by Mary Williams
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Homologous recombination-mediated gene targeting in the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha L.

Homologous recombination-mediated gene targeting in the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha L. | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

The liverwort Marchantia polymorpha is an emerging model organism on account of its ideal characteristics for molecular genetics in addition to occupying a crucial position in the evolution of land plants. Here we describe a method for gene targeting by applying a positive/negative selection system for reduction of non-homologous random integration to an efficient Agrobacterium-mediated transformation system using M. polymorpha sporelings. The targeting efficiency was evaluated by knocking out the NOP1 gene, which impaired air-chamber formation. Homologous recombination was observed in about 2% of the thalli that passed the positive/negative selection. With the advantage of utilizing the haploid gametophytic generation, this strategy should facilitate further molecular genetic analysis of M. polymorpha, in which many of the mechanisms found in land plants are conserved, yet in a less complex form.


Via Jean-Pierre Zryd
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Jean-Pierre Zryd's curator insight, March 30, 2013 2:34 AM

Interesting paper but why  using Agrobacterium transformation in place of direct naked DNA (not as successful as Physcomitrella patens)

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Molecular Cell ($) Dogma Derailed: The Many Influences of RNA on the Genome

Molecular Cell ($) Dogma Derailed: The Many Influences of RNA on the Genome | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here's a nice pan-kingdom reivew of noncoding RNAs of all flavors!

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Water relations in bryophytes

Water relations in bryophytes | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

The next series of lectures in Teaching Tools in Plant Biology covers "Physiology". This is from the first in the series, "How to be a terrestrial photoautotroph: A plant physiology primer". Look for it later this spring.

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PLOS Genetics: Divergent Selection Drives Genetic Differentiation in an R2R3-MYB Transcription Factor That Contributes to Incipient Speciation in Mimulus aurantiacus

PLOS Genetics: Divergent Selection Drives Genetic Differentiation in an R2R3-MYB Transcription Factor That Contributes to Incipient Speciation in Mimulus aurantiacus | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"A fundamental goal of evolutionary biology is to identify the genetic changes and evolutionary mechanisms involved in speciation. Knowledge of the genes allows us to address important unresolved questions about the genetics of speciation, such as what role does ecologically based natural selection play during the process of divergence?"

Mary Williams's insight:

This article examines how a mutation in a TF regulating floral pigment biosynthesis is leading to pre-breeding reproductive isolation and speciation, through the impact on pollinator behavior. This could be an interesting article to give to students in a genetics course.

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Arms Race to Grow World's Hottest Pepper Goes Nuclear

Arms Race to Grow World's Hottest Pepper Goes Nuclear | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The chili one-upmanship raises the question of how many people can actually appreciate the march toward new heights of heat.
Mary Williams's insight:

Hm... has anyone used chilis for teaching? It seems like there is a lot of opportunity for fun and education - metabolic pathways, Mendelian genetics etc.... and, as the article points out, "no one has ever died" from eating chilis...

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Meristemi's comment, March 27, 2013 4:52 AM
You can add also coevolution and human physiology. Chilis are not just eclectic in the kitchen, but in classroom too.
Mary Williams's comment, March 27, 2013 6:00 AM
Great idea - how capsaicins affect human physiology and behavior! Anybody know off hand if other animals / primates like the really hot chilis too, or is it just a human thing?
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Daily Beast: Jane Goodall’s Troubling, Error-Filled New Book, ‘Seeds of Hope’

Daily Beast: Jane Goodall’s Troubling, Error-Filled New Book, ‘Seeds of Hope’ | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
The famed primatologist admitted to plagiarizing parts of her new book, but a deeper look reveals even more disturbing flaws. By Michael Moynihan.
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Hybrid wheat's comeback

Hybrid wheat's comeback | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Nearly 90 years after DuPont Pioneer successfully commercialized the first hybrid corn plants, the company plans to revolutionize the wheat industry in the same way.

Via CIMMYT, Int.
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Jeremy Cherfas's comment, March 25, 2013 5:11 AM
Who needs the 20% yield bump most? People who are in the habit of saving their own seeds, or people who are in the habit of buying fresh seed every season or two?
CIMMYT, Int.'s comment, March 25, 2013 1:52 PM
But Jeremy, there is another part of humanity that needs yield increase - urban population, growing almost exponentially. and these people do not get their daily bred from resource poor farmers :(.
Jeremy Cherfas's comment, March 26, 2013 4:04 AM
Right. They get it from subsidised surpluses grown by farmers who can afford the seeds to get a 20% yield increase.
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inFact with Brian Dunning: Episode Guide

inFact with Brian Dunning: Episode Guide | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
inFact with Brian Dunning is the web video series that gives you the real facts behind popular myths, promoting high-quality information that helps people live better lives.
Mary Williams's insight:

I just saw this video series for the first time - good topics, good sense. Topics include GM crops, environmental toxins, organic food myths, detoxification etc.

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Scientists as Educators and Communicators: Keep Plants Simple

Scientists as Educators and Communicators: Keep Plants Simple | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

ArtPlantae discusses learning strategies for informal science education - "Science communication in informal learning environments isn’t about making grand leaps of understanding. Instead, it is about making small learning gains that engage learners by allowing them to relate the new knowledge to what they already know and how they have come to know it in their daily lives."

 

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn and Bruce L. Sherin address this issue in
The Right Kind of Wrong: A “Knowledge in Pieces” Approach to Science Learning in Museums.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cura.12005/full

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Nature ($). Policy: Sustainable development goals for people and planet

Nature ($). Policy: Sustainable development goals for people and planet | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

This is worth sharing with your students. Building on the Millenium Development Goals, with an eye towards sustainability- the Sustainable Development Goals.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7441/full/495305a.html

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Forbes: CRISPR-associated nuclease could change biotech forever

Forbes: CRISPR-associated nuclease could change biotech forever | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"A tiny molecular machine used by bacteria to kill attacking viruses could change the way that scientists edit the DNA of plants, animals and fungi, revolutionizing genetic engineering."

Mary Williams's insight:

The figure is from this Perspective in Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6121/768.summary)

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Transport and Metabolism in Legume-Rhizobia Symbioses

Transport and Metabolism in Legume-Rhizobia Symbioses | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Symbiotic nitrogen fixation by rhizobia in legume root nodules injects approximately 40 million tonnes of nitrogen into agricultural systems each year. In exchange for reduced nitrogen from the bacteria, the plant provides rhizobia with reduced carbon and all the essential nutrients required for bacterial metabolism. Symbiotic nitrogen fixation requires exquisite integration of plant and bacterial metabolism. Central to this integration are transporters of both the plant and the rhizobia, which transfer elements and compounds across various plant membranes and the two bacterial membranes. Here we review current knowledge of legume and rhizobial transport and metabolism as they relate to symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Although all legume-rhizobia symbioses have many metabolic features in common, there are also interesting differences between them, which show that evolution has solved metabolic problems in different ways to achieve effective symbiosis in different systems.

 

Michael Udvardi and Philip S. Poole (2013).  Annual Review of Plant Biology 64: first posted online March 1.


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NatRevMicrobiol. Speak, friend, and enter: signalling systems that promote beneficial symbiotic associations in plants

NatRevMicrobiol. Speak, friend, and enter: signalling systems that promote beneficial symbiotic associations in plants | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Subscription required, but worth it if you can get it!

I love this area of research - signaling between kingdoms, and the common roots of plant mutualisms with fungi and bacteria.

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Sohini Guha's comment, April 11, 2013 10:07 AM
sohiniguha1985@gmail.com
Jennifer Mach's comment, April 11, 2013 10:54 AM
Dear Sohini, I generally have better luck asking for a reprint directly from the corresponding author. Good luck! I don't have library access either, so I feel your pain!
Sohini Guha's comment, April 11, 2013 1:14 PM
thanx jennifer....
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Bringing light in the discussion about GMOs? – A rather long reading list

(This has been passed through several hands - it originates from Alexander J. Stein www.AJStein.de. It's a useful annotated reading list on GMOs).

 

[updated 15 March, 2013]  

 

These days I received an apparently easy request: “Do you have any recommendations for reading about the debate on GMOs? I think there is a lot of heat, but too little light in the discussion; I trust you can send me some…” To which I answered carelessly: “Sure, I will look into it, select a few references and post them…” 

 

I thought I’d have a quick look into my collection of bookmarks and references and post some of the links to satisfy the request. Obviously there would be too many individual studies and crop-specific or country-specific reports, but focusing only (i) on what was published over the last couple of years, (ii) on sources where all this information was already aggregated (literature reviews, meta-analyses, authoritative statements, FAQs, etc.), and (iii) on academic or publicly funded sources should produce a fairly concise list, I thought.

 

While not unmanageable, the list has become quite long. To get a rough idea of the current state of knowledge, it may be sufficient to peruse the first 1-2 (starred *) references under each heading, and to have a quick look at the abstracts and summaries of some of the others. (Given the controversy surrounding this topic I didn’t want to suggest just one or two sources, but to show a bit the width of the scientific consensus, and to offer some titbits of related information.) ... 

http://ajstein.tumblr.com/post/40504136918/ ;


Via Alexander J. Stein, Jean-Pierre Zryd
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Jennifer Mach's comment, March 30, 2013 9:05 AM
I admit I haven't read this list... but for future reference, I'll definitely have a look.
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PLOS Pathogens: Indifferent, Affectionate, or Deceitful: Lifestyles and Secretomes of Fungi (2012)

PLOS Pathogens: Indifferent, Affectionate, or Deceitful: Lifestyles and Secretomes of Fungi (2012) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Fungi occupy a myriad of niches. They can be free-living (indifferent) as saprophytes recycling nutrients in the natural environment and/or have a range of relationships (affectionate and deceitful) with insect, animal, or plant hosts. Interactions with plants can be a continuum and range from obligate biotrophy where fungi cannot be cultured outside living hosts to necrotrophy where fungi kill and live on released nutrients. Biotrophic fungi need to avoid or suppress defence responses. They include symbionts, which confer a benefit to the host, and pathogens, which can cause devastating diseases such as stem rust, which threatens production of wheat worldwide [1]. Mycorrhizae colonise roots of >80% of land plants and are symbiotic, increasing nitrogen and phosphorus uptake from the soil, while feeding on sugars from the host photosynthate. Secreted proteins are on the front line of host–fungal interactions, and a particular class, effectors, is a hot topic. Here, we examine a range of fungi and consider their complement of secreted proteins (secretome) and roles of effectors in fungal lifestyles.


Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL
Mary Williams's insight:

Love the title!

 

 

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Science, the media, organic food and PLOS ONE . . . Hmm

Science, the media, organic food and PLOS ONE . . . Hmm | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Earlier this week, the media reported on a paper published in PLOS ONE called "Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster".

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/study-eating-organic-food-associated-with-longer-lives-in-flies/274387/

http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2013/03/27/Some-organic-food-may-be-healthier/UPI-29981364363762/

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57576656/organic-foods-linked-to-better-fertility-longevity-in-fruit-flies/

 

The paper's also been more critically reviewed.

http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/03/27/4-out-of-5-fruit-flies-recommend-organic-fruit/

and, from the reader comments section of the article

http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=63389

 

These articles could make an interesting case study to examine how a topic like "organic foods" pushes the media button. I'd have the students first discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the paper, and then the news reports, and finally the criticisms. Two important questions to address are, how good are fruit flies as a model for humans in this study (particularly since, as insects, they are the specific targets of the pesticides used on conventionally-grown foods), and, what kinds of effects will the PLOS ONE business model have on the meaning of "peer review" as understood by journalists and the public?

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eLife: Sugars speed up the circle of life (plant phase change)

eLife: Sugars speed up the circle of life (plant phase change) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here's an eLife insight by Marcel Proveniers describing a pair of new papers by the Poethig and Wang groups.

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PNAS: Exploiting microbial hyperthermophilicity to produce an industrial chemical, using hydrogen and carbon dioxide

PNAS: Exploiting microbial hyperthermophilicity to produce an industrial chemical, using hydrogen and carbon dioxide | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"Herein, we describe a unique temperature-dependent approach that confers on a microorganism (the archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally on carbohydrates at 100°C) the capacity to use carbon dioxide, a reaction that it does not accomplish naturally. This was achieved by the heterologous expression of five genes of the carbon fixation cycle of the archaeon Metallosphaera sedula, which grows autotrophically at 73°C. The engineered P. furiosus strain is able to use hydrogen gas and incorporate carbon dioxide into 3-hydroxypropionic acid, one of the top 12 industrial chemical building blocks".

 

See also the summary from Science Daily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326112301.htm). Image from University of Georgia.

Mary Williams's insight:

Nice work!

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History of Geology: Tiny Plants Creating Big Rocks

History of Geology: Tiny Plants Creating Big Rocks | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Plate showing the deposition of travertine around single algae cells (ca. 1935). The high content of carbonic acid (white circles) dissolves carbonate (shown as schematic rhombohedra-crystals). Plants (like this alga) use the carbon dioxide for their metabolism and the water becomes less acid, the carbonate is deposited around the plant tissue.


Via Meristemi
Mary Williams's insight:

Beautiful 1930s drawing!

 

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Warming World Caused Southern Ocean to Exhale

Warming World Caused Southern Ocean to Exhale | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

No land intersects the 60° circle of latitude south of Earth's equator. Instead, that parallel marks the northern limit of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. At this latitude, swift, prevailing westerly winds continually churn the waters as they circumnavigate the continent, earning the region the nickname "the screaming '60s".

 

But the Southern Ocean plays a more benign role in the global carbon budget: Its waters now take up about 50% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, thanks in large part to the so-called "biological pump." Phytoplankton, tiny photosynthesizing organisms that bloom in the nutrient-rich waters of the Southern Ocean, suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the creatures die, they sink to the ocean floor, effectively sequestering that carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years. It also helps that carbon dioxide is more soluble in colder waters, and that the churning winds mix the waters at the surface, allowing the gases to penetrate the waters more easily.

 

For clues to the future, climate scientists look to past glacial-interglacial cycles. Researchers have a record of atmospheric carbon dioxide stretching back millions of years thanks to ice cores from Antarctica, which contain trapped gas bubbles, snapshots of ancient air. But for the other half of the picture—what happened in the oceans during that time—there is only a relatively short record extending back about 20,000 years to the last glacial cycle. Ocean sediment records, which contain evidence of carbon and nutrients, are one way to reconstruct that history.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Anna Phillips's curator insight, March 24, 2013 6:33 PM

Always learn from nature instead of trying to invent something out of the blue. If you listen closely what the earth (or perhaps this time the ocean) is telling us, we will find the answer here.

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New journal from AmChemSoc: Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering

New journal from AmChemSoc: Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

This first issue is open access and presents a nice range of the "greener chemistry", which is a fast-growing and attractive research area that includes biofuels and natural products. Share this with students interested in chemistry and concerned about the environment.

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Food, Fuel, and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future - Council for Agricultural Science and Technology

Food, Fuel, and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future - Council for Agricultural Science and Technology | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"The use of genetics to improve crop productivity, promote soil conservation and management, and use nutrients efficiently is necessary. The key lies in supporting research and development in these areas. This CAST Issue Paper looks at the background leading to the current situation and addresses the resulting requirements as world food production develops during the next 40 years."

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CurrBiol: Q&A with Cris Kuhlemeier

CurrBiol: Q&A with Cris Kuhlemeier | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

The Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of Bern in Switzerland talks about how he "decided" to study biology, and the problems he has worked on during his career, from cyanobacteria to transcriptional regulation to phyllotaxis to pollination!

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PNAS: Plant elicitor peptides are conserved signals regulating direct and indirect antiherbivore defense

PNAS: Plant elicitor peptides are conserved signals regulating direct and indirect antiherbivore defense | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Characterization of the Plant elicitor peptide (Pep) family from maize.

 

"Direct and indirect defenses induced by ZmPep3 contribute to resistance against S. exigua through significant reduction of larval growth and attraction of Cotesia marginiventris parasitoids. ZmPep3 activity is specific to Poaceous species; however, peptides derived from PROPEP orthologs identified in Solanaceous and Fabaceous plants also induce herbivory-associated volatiles in their respective species."

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Genetic basis of cytokinin and auxin functions during root nodule development.

Genetic basis of cytokinin and auxin functions during root nodule development. | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

\The phytohormones cytokinin and auxin are essential for the control of diverse aspects of cell proliferation and differentiation processes in plants. Although both phytohormones have been suggested to play key roles in the regulation of root nodule development, only recently, significant progress has been made in the elucidation of the molecular genetic basis of cytokinin action in the model leguminous species, and . Identification and functional analyses of the putative cytokinin receptors LOTUS HISTIDINE KINASE 1 and CYTOKININ RESPONSE 1 have brought a greater understanding of how activation of cytokinin signaling is crucial to the initiation of nodule primordia. Recent studies have also started to shed light on the roles of auxin in the regulation of nodule development. Here, we review the history and recent progress of research into the roles of cytokinin and auxin, and their possible interactions, in nodule development.

 

Suzaki T, Ito M, Kawaguchi M. (2013).  Front Plant Sci. 4:42. . Epub Mar 11.


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Edel Perez Lopez's curator insight, August 23, 2013 2:10 AM

Great, I need read this...