The French emergency measures document not only contains no new scientific evidence, but also distorts, misquotes and falsely interprets authentic scientific reports, including those of the EFSA GMO panel. Other scientific articles (at least eight since 2008) relevant to the subject and providing a different picture are ignored. On the most important concerns raised by the emergency measures document, we have obtained direct supporting evidence from several authors of the cited scientific articles and from other experts in the field.
It is significant that the French Biosafety Authority (Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies; HCB) was not consulted on this emergency measures document. Consequently, the chairman of the HCB, Jean-François Dhainault, wrote to the French prime minister expressing the displeasure of the HCB members and their shock that “other expertise” was seemingly used for the preparation of the document and that the conclusions of previous HCB reports had been ignored. No reply was received from the prime minister. The actual authors of the emergency measures document, as well as their scientific qualifications, if any, remain unknown (a clear transgression of scientific ethical norms).
Spice and medicinal plants grown under water deficiency conditions reveal much higher concentrations of relevant natural products compared with identical plants of the same species cultivated with an ample water supply. For the first time, experimental data related to this well-known phenomenon have been collected and a putative mechanistic concept considering general plant physiological and biochemical aspects is presented. Water shortage induces drought stress-related metabolic responses and, due to stomatal closure, the uptake of CO2 decreases significantly. As a result, the consumption of reduction equivalents (NADPH + H+) for CO2 fixation via the Calvin cycle declines considerably, generating a large oxidative stress and an oversupply of reduction equivalents. As a consequence, metabolic processes are shifted towards biosynthetic activities that consume reduction equivalents. Accordingly, the synthesis of reduced compounds, such as isoprenoids, phenols or alkaloids, is enhanced.
Patch-clamp studies carried out on the tonoplast of the moss Physcomitrella patens point to existence of two types of cation-selective ion channels: slowly activated (SV channels), and fast-activated potassium-selective channels. Slowly and instantaneously saturating currents were observed in the whole-vacuole recordings made in the symmetrical KCl concentration and in the presence of Ca2+ on both sides of the tonoplast. The reversal potential obtained at the KCl gradient (10 mM on the cytoplasmic side and 100 mM in the vacuole lumen) was close to the reversal potential for K+ (E K), indicating K+ selectivity. Recordings in cytoplasm-out patches revealed two distinct channel populations differing in conductance: 91.6 ± 0.9 pS (n = 14) at −80 mV and 44.7 ± 0.7 pS (n = 14) at +80 mV. When NaCl was used instead of KCl, clear slow vacuolar SV channel activity was observed both in whole-vacuole and cytoplasm-out membrane patches. There were no instantaneously saturating currents, which points to impermeability of fast-activated potassium channels to Na+ and K+ selectivity. In the symmetrical concentration of NaCl on both sides of the tonoplast, currents have been measured exclusively at positive voltages indicating Na+ influx to the vacuole. Recordings with different concentrations of cytoplasmic and vacuolar Ca2+ revealed that SV channel activity was regulated by both cytoplasmic and vacuolar calcium. While cytoplasmic Ca2+ activated SV channels, vacuolar Ca2+inhibited their activity. Dependence of fast-activated potassium channels on the cytoplasmic Ca2+ was also determined. These channels were active even without Ca2+ (2 mM EGTA in the cytosol and the vacuole lumen), although their open probability significantly increased at 0.1 μM Ca2+ on the cytoplasmic side. Apart from monovalent cations (K+ and Na+), SV channels were permeable to divalent cations (Ca2+ and Mg2+). Both monovalent and divalent cations passed through the channels in the same direction—from the cytoplasm to the vacuole. The identity of the vacuolar ion channels in Physcomitrellaand ion channels already characterised in different plants is discussed.
Together with several partners, scientists from Wageningen UR (University & Research centre) have discovered that RLP-receptors located at the outside of plant cells and playing an important role in plant defence, join forces with other proteins...
Electric supplemental lighting can account for a significant proportion of total greenhouse energy costs. Thus, the objectives of this study were to compare high-wire tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production with and without supplemental lighting and to evaluate two different lighting positions + light sources [traditional high-pressure sodium (HPS) overhead lighting (OHL) lamps vs. light-emitting diode (LED) intracanopy lighting (ICL) towers] on several production and energy-consumption parameters for two commercial tomato cultivars. Results indicated that regardless of the lighting position + source, supplemental lighting induced early fruit production and increased node number, fruit number (FN), and total fruit fresh weight (FW) for both cultivars compared with unsupplemented controls for a winter-to-summer production period. Furthermore, no productivity differences were measured between the two supplemental lighting treatments. The energy-consumption metrics indicated that the electrical conversion efficiency for light-emitting intracanopy lighting (LED-ICL) into fruit biomass was 75% higher than that for HPS-OHL. Thus, the lighting cost per average fruit grown under the HPS-OHL lamps was 403% more than that of using LED-ICL towers. Although no increase in yield was measured using LED-ICL, significant energy savings for lighting occurred without compromising fruit yield.
Across the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, widespread ice retreat during the 20th century has sharply accelerated since 2004. In Sverdrup Pass, central Ellesmere Island, rapid glacier retreat is exposing intact plant communities whose radiocarbon dates demonstrate entombment during the Little Ice Age (1550–1850 AD). The exhumed bryophyte assemblages have exceptional structural integrity (i.e., setae, stem structures, leaf hair points) and have remarkable species richness (60 of 144 extant taxa in Sverdrup Pass). Although the populations are often discolored (blackened), some have developed green stem apices or lateral branches suggesting in vivo regrowth. To test their biological viability, Little Ice Age populations emerging from the ice margin were collected for in vitro growth experiments. Our results include a unique successful regeneration of subglacial bryophytes following 400 y of ice entombment. This finding demonstrates the totipotent capacity of bryophytes, the ability of a cell to dedifferentiate into a meristematic state (analogous to stem cells) and develop a new plant. In polar ecosystems, regrowth of bryophyte tissue buried by ice for 400 y significantly expands our understanding of their role in recolonization of polar landscapes (past or present). Regeneration of subglacial bryophytes broadens the concept of Ice Age refugia, traditionally confined to survival of land plants to sites above and beyond glacier margins. Our results emphasize the unrecognized resilience of bryophytes, which are commonly overlooked vis-a-vis their contribution to the establishment, colonization, and maintenance of polar terrestrial ecosystems.
The evolution of multicellular organisms was made possible by the evolution of underlying gene regulatory networks. In animals, the core of gene regulatory networks consists of kernels, stable subnetworks of transcription factors that are highly conserved in distantly related species. However, in plants it is not clear when and how kernels evolved. We show here that RSL (ROOT HAIR DEFECTIVE SIX-LIKE) transcription factors form an ancient land plant kernel controlling caulonema differentiation in the moss Physcomitrella patens and root hair development in the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that RSL proteins evolved in aquatic charophyte algae or in early land plants, and have been conserved throughout land plant radiation. Genetic and transcriptional analyses in loss of function A. thaliana and P. patens mutants suggest that the transcriptional interactions in the RSL kernel were remodeled and became more hierarchical during the evolution of vascular plants. We predict that other gene regulatory networks that control development in derived groups of plants may have originated in the earliest land plants or in their ancestors, the Charophycean algae.
Heat stress is a common and, therefore, an important environmental impact on cells and organisms. While much attention has been paid to severe heat stress, moderate temperature elevations are also important. Here we discuss temperature sensing and how responses to heat stress are not necessarily dependent on denatured proteins. Indeed, it is clear that membrane lipids have a pivotal function. Details of membrane lipid changes and the associated production of signalling metabolites are described and suggestions made as to how the interconnected signalling network could be modified for helpful intervention in disease.
Land plants need precise thermosensors to timely establish molecular defenses in anticipation of upcoming noxious heat waves. The plasma membrane-embedded cyclic nucleotide-gated Ca2+ channels (CNGCs) can translate mild variations of membrane fluidity into an effective heat shock response, leading to the accumulation of heat shock proteins (HSP) that prevent heat damages in labile proteins and membranes. Here, we deleted by targeted mutagenesis the CNGCd gene in two Physcomitrella patens transgenic moss lines containing either the heat-inducible HSP-GUS reporter cassette or the constitutive UBI-Aequorin cassette. The stable CNGCd knockout mutation caused a hyper-thermosensitive moss phenotype, in which the heat-induced entry of apoplastic Ca2+ and the cytosolic accumulation of GUS were triggered at lower temperatures than in wild type. The combined effects of an artificial membrane fluidizer and elevated temperatures suggested that the gene products of CNGCd and CNGCb are paralogous subunits of Ca2+channels acting as a sensitive proteolipid thermocouple. Depending on the rate of temperature increase, the duration and intensity of the heat priming preconditions, terrestrial plants may thus acquire an array of HSP-based thermotolerance mechanisms against upcoming, otherwise lethal, extreme heat waves.
Predators and parasitoids often benefit from feeding on nectar and/or pollen, such that the addition of flowering plants should bolster natural enemies and improve biological control. Nonetheless, this conceptually-simple approach often fails to reduce pest numbers. We examined whether flowering annual plants drew more natural enemies to apples (Malus domestica) in Washington State, USA, and in turn whether this improved suppression of woolly apple aphids (Eriosoma lanigerum) on nearby trees. Initial screening of candidate flowers indicated that syrphid flies (Diptera: Syrphidae), thought to be important aphid predators, were particularly attracted to sweet alyssum flowers (Lobularia maritima). Therefore, in two subsequent field experiments we compared aphid densities on trees placed adjacent to, or relatively far from, flowering sweet alyssum. The results were striking: after one week aphid densities were significantly lower on trees adjacent to flowers than on those on control plots, and these differences were maintained for several weeks. It was unlikely that aphid decline was primarily due to syrphid predation, because lower aphid densities were observed despite few syrphid larvae being present. Rather, a diverse group of generalist-predator spiders and bugs increased significantly near sweet alyssum plantings, and may have been responsible for much of the aphid suppression that we observed. Immunomarking revealed that natural enemies regularly moved from sweet alyssum to the surrounding orchard. In summary, the floral resources that sweet alyssum plants provided attracted natural enemies and indirectly suppressed densities of woolly apple aphids, suggesting an effective means for apple growers to enhance biological control.
The rapid adoption of genetically engineered (GE) plants that express insecticidal Cry proteins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has raised concerns about their potential impact on non-target organisms. This includes the possibility that non-target herbivores develop into pests. Although studies have now reported increased populations of non-target herbivores in Bt cotton, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. We propose that lack of herbivore-induced secondary metabolites in Bt cotton represents a mechanism that benefits non-target herbivores. We show that, because of effective suppression of Bt-sensitive lepidopteran herbivores, Bt cotton contains reduced levels of induced terpenoids. We also show that changes in the overall level of these defensive secondary metabolites are associated with improved performance of a Bt-insensitive herbivore, the cotton aphid, under glasshouse conditions. These effects, however, were not as clearly evident under field conditions as aphid populations were not correlated with the amount of terpenoids measured in the plants. Nevertheless, increased aphid numbers were visible in Bt cotton compared with non-Bt cotton on some sampling dates. Identification of this mechanism increases our understanding of how insect-resistant crops impact herbivore communities and helps underpin the sustainable use of GE varieties.
Water transport across cellular membranes is regulated by a family of water channel proteins known as aquaporins (AQPs). As most abiotic stresses like suboptimal temperatures, drought or salinity result in cellular dehydration, it is imperative to study the cause–effect relationship between AQPs and the cellular consequences of abiotic stress stimuli. Although plant cells have a high isoform diversity of AQPs, the individual and integrated roles of individual AQPs in optimal and suboptimal physiological conditions remain unclear. Herein, we have identified a plasma membrane intrinsic protein gene (MusaPIP1;2) from banana and characterized it by overexpression in transgenic banana plants. Cellular localization assay performed using MusaPIP1;2::GFP fusion protein indicated that MusaPIP1;2 translocated to plasma membrane in transformed banana cells. Transgenic banana plants overexpressing MusaPIP1;2 constitutively displayed better abiotic stress survival characteristics. The transgenic lines had lower malondialdehyde levels, elevated proline and relative water content and higher photosynthetic efficiency as compared to equivalent controls under different abiotic stress conditions. Greenhouse-maintained hardened transgenic plants showed faster recovery towards normal growth and development after cessation of abiotic stress stimuli, thereby underlining the importance of these plants in actual environmental conditions wherein the stress stimuli is often transient but severe. Further, transgenic plants where the overexpression of MusaPIP1;2 was made conditional by tagging it with a stress-inducible native dehydrin promoter also showed similar stress tolerance characteristics in in vitro and in vivo assays. Plants developed in this study could potentially enable banana cultivation in areas where adverse environmental conditions hitherto preclude commercial banana cultivation
The role of genetically modified (GM) crops for food security is the subject of public controversy. GM crops could contribute to food production increases and higher food availability. There may also be impacts on food quality and nutrient composition. Finally, growing GM crops may influence farmers’ income and thus their economic access to food. Smallholder farmers make up a large proportion of the undernourished people worldwide. Our study focuses on this latter aspect and provides the first ex post analysis of food security impacts of GM crops at the micro level. We use comprehensive panel data collected over several years from farm households in India, where insect-resistant GM cotton has been widely adopted. Controlling for other factors, the adoption of GM cotton has significantly improved calorie consumption and dietary quality, resulting from increased family incomes. This technology has reduced food insecurity by 15–20% among cotton-producing households. GM crops alone will not solve the hunger problem, but they can be an important component in a broader food security strategy.
Superoxide dismutases (SODs) are metallo-enzymes that catalyze the dismutation of superoxide radicals. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the expression of CuZn-SOD in both the chloroplast and cytosol was reported to be down-regulated by microRNA398 (miR398) during growth on low copper. The moss Physcomitrella patens contains chloroplastic and cytosolic CuZn-SOD genes, but lacks miR398. From analysis of P. patens microRNA, miR1073 was predicted to target CuZn-SOD mRNAs. We noticed that two chloroplastic CuZn-SOD genes contain the miR1073 target sequence in the 3′ UTR region; however, cytosolic isozyme genes lack this sequence. In this study, we investigated the involvement of miR1073 in the expression of CuZn-SOD genes in P. patens. When protonemata of P. patens were cultured on a copper-depleted medium, SOD activity and mRNA levels of chloroplastic CuZn-SODs were decreased markedly. In contrast, cytosolic CuZn-SODs showed little or no change in mRNA levels or SOD activity. The precursor transcript and the mature form of miR1073 were induced by copper deficiency. The chloroplastic CuZn-SOD (PpCSD1) mRNA was cleaved at the miR1073 target site under copper deficiency. These results suggest that miR1073 is involved in the down-regulation of PpCSD1 expression.
In addition to PpCSD1 mRNA, antisense RNAs of PpCSD1 were also detected under normal conditions; however, under copper deficiency, they were cleaved within the ORF region. The cleavage of sense PpCSD1 mRNA was also detected within the ORF region. Although only miR1073 exists in the database, it is presumed that RNA cleavage, other than that mediated by miR1073, is involved in the regulation of PpCSD1 expression.
Betalamic acid is the structural unit of all the natural pigments betalains. These are nitrogen-containing water-soluble compounds with high colorant and bioactive properties, characteristic of plants of the order Caryophyllales. The formation of betalamic acid from the precursor amino acid 3,4-dihydroxy-l-phenylalanine (l-DOPA) by the enzyme 4,5-DOPA-extradiol-dioxygenase was supposed to be restricted to plants of this order and two fungal species. Here, the first case of betalamic acid formation by an enzyme other than eukaryotes is reported with a homolog enzyme from Escherichia coli. The protein YgiD has been cloned, expressed, and purified to carry out its molecular and functional characterization. The enzyme was obtained as a monomeric active protein with a molecular mass of 32 kDa characterized by chromatography, electrophoresis, and MALDI-TOF analysis. Enzyme kinetic properties are characterized in the transformation of the relevant substrate l-DOPA. Reaction was analyzed spectrophotometrically and by HPLC-DAD, electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, and time-of-flight mass spectrometry.
Online today, the newest Teaching Tool in Plant Biology, "Plant-Plant Interactions", by Ariel Novoplansky and Mary Williams. It's all about how plants sense and respond to their neighbors. Subscription to Plant Cell required. Slides, lecture notes and teaching guide too! http://www.plantcell.org/site/teachingtools/TTPB25.xhtml
New estimates of the impacts of germplasm improvement in the major staple crops between 1965 and 2004 on global land-cover change are presented, based on simulations carried out using a global economic model (Global Trade Analysis Project Agro-Ecological Zone), a multicommodity, multiregional computable general equilibrium model linked to a global spatially explicit database on land use. We estimate the impact of removing the gains in cereal productivity attributed to the widespread adoption of improved varieties in developing countries. Here, several different effects—higher yields, lower prices, higher land rents, and trade effects—have been incorporated in a single model of the impact of Green Revolution research (and subsequent advances in yields from crop germplasm improvement) on land-cover change. Our results generally support the Borlaug hypothesis that increases in cereal yields as a result of widespread adoption of improved crop germplasm have saved natural ecosystems from being converted to agriculture. However, this relationship is complex, and the net effect is of a much smaller magnitude than Borlaug proposed. We estimate that the total crop area in 2004 would have been between 17.9 and 26.7 million hectares larger in a world that had not benefited from crop germplasm improvement since 1965. Of these hectares, 12.0–17.7 million would have been in developing countries, displacing pastures and resulting in an estimated 2 million hectares of additional deforestation. However, the negative impacts of higher food prices on poverty and hunger under this scenario would likely have dwarfed the welfare effects of agricultural expansion.
The advent of farming around 12 millennia ago was a cultural as well as technological revolution, requiring a new system of property rights. Among mobile hunter–gatherers during the late Pleistocene, food was almost certainly widely shared as it was acquired. If a harvested crop or the meat of a domesticated animal were to have been distributed to other group members, a late Pleistocene would-be farmer would have had little incentive to engage in the required investments in clearing, cultivation, animal tending, and storage. However, the new property rights that farming required—secure individual claims to the products of one’s labor—were infeasible because most of the mobile and dispersed resources of a forager economy could not cost-effectively be delimited and defended. The resulting chicken-and-egg puzzle might be resolved if farming had been much more productive than foraging, but initially it was not. Our model and simulations explain how, despite being an unlikely event, farming and a new system of farming-friendly property rights nonetheless jointly emerged when they did. This Holocene revolution was not sparked by a superior technology. It occurred because possession of the wealth of farmers—crops, dwellings, and animals—could be unambiguously demarcated and defended. This facilitated the spread of new property rights that were advantageous to the groups adopting them. Our results thus challenge unicausal models of historical dynamics driven by advances in technology, population pressure, or other exogenous changes. Our approach may be applied to other technological and institutional revolutions such as the 18th- and 19th-century industrial revolution and the information revolution today.
Viruses have generally been studied either as disease-causing infectious agents that have a negative impact on the host (most eukaryote-infecting viruses), or as tools for molecular biology (especially bacteria-infecting viruses, or phage). Virus ecology looks at the more complex issues of virus-host-environment interactions. For plant viruses this includes studies of plant virus biodiversity, including viruses sampled directly from plants and from a variety of other environments; how plant viruses impact species invasion; interactions between plants, viruses and insects; the large number of persistent viruses in plants that may have epigenetic effects; and viruses that provide a clear benefit to their plant hosts (mutualists). Plants in a non-agricultural setting interact with many other living entities such as animals, insects, and other plants, as well as their physical environment. Wild plants are almost always colonized by a number of microbes, including fungi, bacteria and viruses. Viruses may impact any of these interactions.
Phytophthora infestans, the cause of potato late blight, is infamous for having triggered the Irish Great Famine in the 1840s. Until the late 1970s, P. infestans diversity outside of its Mexican center of origin was low, and one scenario held that a single strain, US-1, had dominated the global population for 150 years; this was later challenged based on DNA analysis of historical herbarium specimens. We have compared the genomes of 11 herbarium and 15 modern strains. We conclude that the nineteenth century epidemic was caused by a unique genotype, HERB-1, that persisted for over 50 years. HERB-1 is distinct from all examined modern strains, but it is a close relative of US-1, which replaced it outside of Mexico in the twentieth century. We propose that HERB-1 and US-1 emerged from a metapopulation that was established in the early 1800s outside of the species' center of diversity.
Recently, bryophytes, which diverged from the ancestor of seed plants more than 400 million years ago, came into focus in photosynthesis research as they can provide valuable insights into the evolution of photosynthetic complexes during the adaptation to terrestrial life. This study isolated intact photosystem I (PSI) with its associated light-harvesting complex (LHCI) from the moss Physcomitrella patens and characterized its structure, polypeptide composition, and light-harvesting function using electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, biochemical, and physiological methods. It became evident thatPhyscomitrella possesses a strikingly high number of isoforms for the different PSI core subunits as well as LHCI proteins. It was demonstrated that all these different subunit isoforms are expressed at the protein level and are incorporated into functional PSI–LHCI complexes. Furthermore, in contrast to previous reports, it was demonstrated thatPhyscomitrella assembles a light-harvesting complex consisting of four light-harvesting proteins forming a higher-plant-like PSI superstructure.
Unlike the other major crops, no genetically modified (GM) varieties of rice have been commercialized at a large scale. Within the next 2–3 years new transgenic rice varieties could be ready for regulatory approval and subsequent commercialization, though. Given the importance of rice as staple crop for many of the world's poorest people, this will have implications for the alleviation of poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Thus, policy-makers need to be aware of the potential benefits of GM rice. We provide an overview of the literature and discuss the evidence on expected agronomic and consumer benefits of genetically engineered rice. We find that while GM rice with improved agronomic traits could deliver benefits similar to already commercialized biotechnology crops, expected benefits of consumer traits could be higher by an order of magnitude. By aggregating the expected annual benefits, we estimate the global value of GM rice to be US$64 billion per year. This is only an indicative value, as more GM varieties will become available in future. Nevertheless, such a figure can help guide policy-makers when deciding on the approval or funding of biotechnology crops and it may also raise awareness among consumers about what is at stake for their societies.
A substantial proportion of the global land surface is used for agricultural production. Agricultural land serves multiple societal purposes; it provides food, fuel and fibre and also acts as habitat for organisms and supports the services they provide. Biodiversity conservation and food production need to be balanced: production needs to be sustainable, while conservation cannot be totally at the expense of crop yield.
To identify the benefits (in terms of biodiversity conservation) and costs (in terms of reduction in yields) of agricultural management, we examined the relationship between crop yield and abundance and species density of important taxa in winter cereal fields on both organic and conventional farms in lowland England.
Of eight species groups examined, five (farmland plants, bumblebees, butterflies, solitary bees and epigeal arthropods) were negatively associated with crop yield, but the shape of this relationship varied between taxa. It was linear for the abundance of bumblebees and species density of butterflies, concave up for the abundance of epigeal arthropods and butterflies and concave down for species density of plants and bumblebees.
Grain production per unit area was 54% lower in organic compared with conventional fields. When controlling for yield, diversity of bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and epigeal arthropods did not differ between farming systems, indicating that observed differences in biodiversity between organic and conventional fields are explained by lower yields in organic fields and not by different management practices per se. Only percentage cover and species density of plants were increased by organic field management after controlling for yield. The abundance of solitary wild bees and hoverflies was increased in landscapes with high amount of organic land.
Our results indicate that considerable gains in biodiversity require roughly proportionate reductions in yield in highly productive agricultural systems. They suggest that conservation efforts may be more cost effective in low-productivity agricultural systems or on non-agricultural land. In less productive agricultural landscapes, biodiversity benefit can be gained by concentrating organic farms into hotspots without a commensurate reduction in yield.