Breaks

Plant Biology

Number of breaks: 5

Capturing Mother Nature at work: seeing how plants make vitamin B6

Vitamins are essential for life. They perform a huge variety of tasks within metabolism, with many helping to promote biochemical reactions in our bodies. In general, we cannot make vitamins from scratch, and so we must obtain them from our diet. Plants and microorganisms can make these compounds de novo, and are therefore a good source of vitamins for humans, which is why it's essential that we incorporate such resources within a healthy, varied diet. The study of vitamins is important for an understanding of health but it is also crucial in combating many infectious diseases. Ideally, treatments for microbial infections are designed to target essential functions of the microbes that do not overlap with what humans and animals have, i.e. (...)

· Teresa Fitzpatrick | Professor at Department of Botany and Plant Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

· Graham Robinson | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Department of Botany and Plant Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Published on February 16, 2017Reading time: 4 min

Cloudy days cost yield until scientists hacked photosynthesis

Throughout the growing season seemingly benign clouds pass over millions of acres of crops and inadvertently rob plants of their productivity, costing untold bushels of potential yield. Researchers recently reported in the journal Science that they have engineered a solution and increased the productivity of a crop in the field by 14- 20 percent - they believe this fix could be applied to staple food crops to help meet future global food demands. When it's too bright outside, you put on your sunglasses. Return to the shade, and you can quickly take them off. Plants have evolved their own sun protection, called photoprotection, which leaves turn on in full-sun and turn off when shaded by a cloud or another leaf. Without (...)

· Stephen Long | Professor at Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois, USA

· Katarzyna Głowacka | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois, USA

· Johannes Kromdijk | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois

Published on February 2, 2017Reading time: 3.5 min

Out of the darkness: how plants prepare for, and endure, life in the sun

All plants must sense, and respond to, their environment. This perception is of crucial importance to developing seedlings. Initially, they must grow in subterranean darkness in order to reach the surface - a process known as skotomorphogenesis (development in the dark). Once at the surface, and emerging into sunlight, plants grow more slowly, redirecting their energy to producing leaves, and packing them with the green light-capturing pigment chlorophyll. This process is called photomorphogenesis (development in the light), and it is controlled by proteins called phytochromes, which are able to sense sunlight, and then switch-on genes required to use light as a source of energy. In addition to this light-sensing mechanism, plants perceive and respond to the luminosity of their environment through (...)

· Graham Robinson | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Department of Botany and Plant Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Published on November 28, 2016Reading time: 3 min

Attractive in the dark — how petunias may help to feed humanity

Many plants, including staple crops, need insects to reproduce. Changing climate and human interference threaten the sensitive relationships between plants and their pollinators. Many aspects of these relationships are not well understood. However, this knowledge may be crucial to sustain and increase crop production to feed an ever-growing human population. Petunias are very popular garden and container plants around the globe. They are of South American origin, and were first described in 1803 from flowers collected in Uruguay. Favoured by gardeners for their diverse range of shapes and colours, petunias have also found their way into science: researchers use them to study flower pollination. The flowers of common garden petunia release substances, known as floral volatiles, to attract nocturnal pollinators, such as (...)

· Graham Robinson | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Department of Botany and Plant Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Published on April 27, 2016Reading time: 3 min

GMOs are not a human invention: sweet potato is a naturally transgenic food crop

Sweet potato is one of the most important food crops for human consumption in the world. It is especially grown and consumed in Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia, and the Pacific islands. Additionally, it is one of the earliest domesticated crops, documented by archeological findings in caves of the Chilca Canyon in Peru that are 8,000 to 10,000 years old. While searching the sweet potato genome – this is the entire DNA-code – for viral diseases, researchers in Peru unexpectedly discovered DNA sequences of the bacterium ‘Agrobacterium’. Instead of contributing this peculiar finding to bacterial contamination of the plant samples (as is usually done in similar studies), they decided to study these sequences in more detail. They teamed up with different (...)

· Tina Kyndt | Research Professor at Department Molecular Biotechnology, Ghent University (UGent), Ghent, Belgium

Published on July 6, 2015Reading time: 3 min