Showing posts from 2015

Heirloom Tomatos: Taste to Genes

As a tomato-holic, from salad to pizza, and plant biologist, it's obvious for me to write about tomatos in details. The initial question which drove me to find more about tomato was "taste". What makes it atrractive to me  and to others tomato-lovers as well as. Let's take an overview on the chemical constituents which bring the taste.  It's simple. Just sugars like glucose, fructose, citric acid, malic acids, ascorbic acids, and few volatile compounds. Volatile compounds are important here to consider. These volatile compounds are perceived by our taste bud. But, the concentration of these volatile compounds varies and the perception sensitivity of particular volatile compounds depends on individual. So, in non-scientific conclusion, the same tomato variety will not taste "best" to everyone. Scientifically speaking, individuals' senstivity to specific volatile compounds are dependent on our genetic make up. In addition, to sense  a volatile compoun…

Plants Provide Caffeine to Bees

There is no way to surprise if I visit a restaurant frequently because of their coffee, although other foods really suck. And it would be obvious to recommend my friends and family  this place for hanging out. It's a quite nice to listen and completely makes sense. 
In contrast, the homologous story seems weird for bee. Bees move from flowers to flowers to collect sugar and through "waggle dance" attracts their community mambers to a particularly good nutrient containging flowers. In exchange, plants have the opportunity to take their random visit to flowers for pollination. It's natural win-win combination. Unfortunately, poor sugar content flowers fail to attract bees. As like my favorite restaurant, they do the trick with coffee, where as sugar content sucks. Few plants produce caffeine and lure bees. Eventually, these bees collect less foods, still they love to visit those particular caffeine producing flowers happily. 
The above story sounds fun and probably my …

Phytoremediation of explosive

Phytoremediation is one of the best technique to use plants to get rid of hazardous chemicals. Scientists, working on stress biology, are trying to discover the underlyinmolecular mechanism and candidate genes to engineer plants against different heavy metals and hazardous components.
For example, explosive like 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) is a worldwide pollutant, contaminating manufacturing waste sites, mines, current and former conflict zones, and military land. The U.S. Department of Defense has an estimated 10 million hectares of operational ranges contaminated with munitions constituents and rated as a class C carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. TNT has toxic effects on all living organisms: in animals, causing hepatitis, anemia, hyperplasia of bone marrow, and cataracts, and in soil, severely affecting microbial diversity and the establishment of vegetation. In plants, the majority of TNT remains in the roots, where growth and development is inhibited, reducing ov…

Vale Jan Anderson (1932-2015)

It with deep sadness that I convey this message. Jan Anderson died tragically early, on Friday 28 August. She suffered a fall at home and while in hospital, lapsed into unconsciousness from which she never recovered. Jan served ASPS (Australian Society of Plant Scientists) as president from 1992 to 1994 and was elected to the Royal Society in 1996. I had the privilege of working in her lab as a post doctoral fellow in the mid 1980s. Her passion was the light reactions of photosynthesis, a field in which she has left an indelible mark, breaking the dogma of equal proportions of photosystem one and two, demonstrating lateral heterogeneity in their location in thylakoid membranes, to mention but two. Although she suffered arthritis in one knee, her mind was as sharp as ever and she had just returned from the UK where she had been invited to celebrate Jim Barber’s birthday. Australian science has lost a wonderful colleague, but her example should be a beacon for the rest of us to aspire t…

Root Array

The plant root is an amazing system to study. Because in both radial and longitudinal axis, it is highly organized during developmental period. And, all sorts of cell division for root only happens in root apical meristem and later those cells move upward and acquire their identities. In addition, the expression of genes in longitudinal axis either progressive or repetitive based on the role of particular genes during different developmental stage. (See the animation)
Philip Benfey, one of the leading researcher in root biology, studies the developmental mystery of root. His research focus is to understand how cells acquire their identities. To answer this question, he uses Arabidopsis thaliana root as a model system because of its simplicity, organization and organized pattern. His lab employs the combination of genetics, molecular biology and genomics to study the genes necessary for root development along with radial and longitudinal patterning. His lab discovered two genes, SHORT-R…

Book Review : My Life As A Plant

The book, My Life As A Plant, is an initiative of Dr. Alan M. Jones and Dr. Jane Ellis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to provide an illustrative understanding about the basic of plant biology for school kids. The book is written in a story telling way to explore the world of plants. They become the winner of  ASPB Education Foundation Grant program for such an interactive story. And it has been published by American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). In addition, the book is available in not only English, but also in Japanese, German, Spanish, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Farsi, Arabic, Catalan, Lituanian. 
The American Society of Plant Biologists has developed the following Principles of Plant Biologyto provide basic plant biology concepts for science education at the K-12 levels and to help students gain a better understanding of plant biology. This book tries to disseminate this knowledge through a digestible way.  Plants contain the same biol…

Luminaries : Inspiration #01

"At all career stages, we must understand the layer below us (a more fundamental one) and a layer above us (a more applied or complex one). Thus, if we are working looking at a single plant level, we should aim to understand what is happening at a cellular/molecular level and also the crop level. This gives us entry into more fundamental science and entry into the application of our science." 

Richard RichardsCSIRO Fellow, CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, Australia 

Source: Luminaries ASPB news (March/April 2015. Volume 42, Number 2)

Measuring Cytokinin In Zeptomole Level

Phytohormone cytokinin is well studied since its discovery by Folke Skoog and colleagues around 60 years ago. Cytokinin promotes cell division (cytokinesis), cell growth, differentiation and affect apical dominance, axillary bud growth, leaf senescence and so on. Most interestingly, it interacts with other hormones like auxin, ethylene, abscisic acid, gibberellins, and strigolactones. More precisely, the balance between cytokinin and auxin underlies their critical, antagonistic roles in regulating organ initiation, embryogenesis, meristem function, and other crucial processes. Phytohormone levels are thought to be tightly regulated both temporally and spatially.
In the root of Arabidopsis thaliana, an auxin gradient is observed. But, such a gradient study for cytokinin has not done yet.  This is challenging for cytokinin, because cytokinins are present at extremely low levels (pmol/ g-21 fresh weight, 100-fold lower than auxin levels) and consist of several related molecules and der…

Root Architecture : Known and Unknown Facts

Root is the most amazing part of a plant to answer so many questions. Over the decades, it's become popular among plant scientist to study because of the simplicity of its organization and stereotyped developmental program. 
Philip Benfey from Duke University is one of the leading scientist of root developmental research and his study focus is to know how cells divide and acquire their identities in root. These discoveries originated with screens for mutants with roots that had altered cell division potential. Characterization of these mutants revealed alterations in cell division and cell identity leading to dramatic changes in the radial pattern of the root. His lab has isolated the genes mutated in these lines and found that several of them encode transcriptional regulators. One of these called SHORT-ROOT is made in the vascular cylinder of the root and then moves to the adjacent tissue where it activates the expression of a second transcription factor, SCARECROW. The SHORT-ROOT…

Pamela Ronald: The case for engineering our food

Pamela Ronald studies the genes that make plants more resistant to disease and stress. In an eye-opening talk, she describes her decade-long quest to isolate a gene that allows rice to survive prolonged flooding. She shows how the genetic improvement of seeds saved the Hawaiian papaya crop in the 1990s — and makes the case that modern genetics is sometimes the most effective method to advance sustainable agriculture and enhance food security for our planet’s growing population.

Source: TED Talk

Sweet Potato:Sweet Story

Undoubtedly we are living in the age of "genetically-modified-organism (GMO)". Scientist have taken the challenge to meet the demand of growing population through GMO and the other school of thought is completely against the practice of GMO. To break the ice by putting more profound examples for making it understandable that it's basically a natural process. A striking article has recently been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Kyndt and colleagues where they showed the sweet potato as genetically modified by natural events. 
For plant scientist, the most popular technique for transferring gene is Agrobacterium mediated. Strains of bacteria from the genus Agrobacterium have a well characterized and widely utilized capacity to introduce DNA into plant cells. The transferred DNA (T-DNA) is specified by short left and right border sequences, and is delivered from the bacterium into plant cells by a mechanism that evolved from bacterial conjugati…

Garden Answers Plant Identification

It has no harm to memorize the whole dictionary, but as human being has limitation, it's always better to get some instant help rather than keeping everything inside our brain. Similarly, for a plant enthusiast it's almost impossible to recognize or identify all plants and flower around him or her. Not only for plant enthusiast, but also general people sometimes want to know the details about a flower or plant in their garden while walking in the morning or evening. 
Garden Answers is the revolutionary plant identification app that instantly identifies over 20,000 plants and gives you accurate and detailed information about it.

If you've ever wanted to identify a flower or plant or find out if a plant in your garden is harmful to your pets or small children, now you can with my Garden Answers Plant Identification app. Just snap a picture, tap submit and instantly you will get the accurate identity of the plant and detailed information about it by garden and horticulture exp…

Mystery of edible Corn: A single base mutation

We always discuss about the power of single base mutation to understand the molecular mechanism of genetic disease. For example, a single base mutation at position 6 of beta-globin gene results valine instead of glutamic acid residue. On the mean time, such a powerful example of single base mutation for plants are limited in our text books. That's why I've decided to bring a profound example of single base mutation in plants and how it had changed the human history. 

About 9000 years ago in Mexico, humans domesticated corn from the wild grass teosinte, whose kernels were covered by a tough shell, making them unpalatable to humans. For decades, scientists have studied how the wild maize could have been transformed into the plant we now eat, eventually zeroing in on the gene, known as tga1, that regulates other genes involved in producing the kernels’ casing. Now, a new study in Genetics has compared corn and teosinte further and found that a single DNA base swap — from C to G —i…