Report from the 1st SPPS Early Career Principle Investigator (ECPI) Meeting
Position available: SPPS Society Secretary at Lund
Time to renew your membership
Presentation of speakers for Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015: Battlegrounds and romance
Swedish plant scientists oppose anti-GMO lobbyists
Education corner: Using science in an increasingly internet driven age

Published monthly on behalf of SPPS by Wiley-Blackwell.
Membranes, superoxide and cell walls
Cell wall lignin is formed by peroxidases through oxidation of monolignols to radicals that can subsequently polymerize to lignin. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is used as an oxidant and is produced by various enzymes in the plasma membrane. In order to study this process in Norway spruce (Picea abies), Anna Kärkönen from University of Helsinki - Secretary General of SPPS - and her colleagues from Finland, Germany and Austria first had to develop a protocol for purification of plasma membranes from the lignin-forming tissues of this species, as its phenolics-rich tissues have hitherto made such attempts unsuccessful. Modified homogenization buffers and two-phase partitioning enabled preparation of partially purified plasma membranes from both developing xylem and tissue-cultured cells. The membrane fractions contained several redox-enzymes capable of producing superoxide (O2•-) in the presence of NADH or NADPH. Some of these enzymes were identified by staining or mass spectrometry while others were characterized by how superoxide production was affected by substrate (NADP or NADPH) and activators like naphthoquinones juglone and menadione.
Read full article here: Kärkönen et al (December 2014) Physiologia Plantarum 152: 599

Have your timber and keep the forests
The proverb goes that you can't have your cake and eat it, but according to a new study this does not apply to the valuable timber in tropical forests. Jake Bicknell from University of Kent in the United Kingdom conducted a meta-analysis of previous studies that have addressed biological diversity in tropical forests managed by either conventional logging or reduced-impact logging (RIL). RIL is a logging practice that aims to reduce the impact on the surrounding environment when trees are harvested. Unintended damage typical occurs when logging roads are not well-planned and when cut trees are intertwined with adjacent trees and take them with them in the fall or crush them by simply falling into them. Directional felling and cutting the vines along with well-planned logging roads appear to cause less harm to arthropods, birds as well as mammals and leads to a reduced shift in species abundance after logging. The study suggests that there is no direct correlation to logging intensity and damage levels, and that it is indeed possible to preserve the tropical forests while still utilizing the timber - if consumers opt to demand only RIL certified wood.
Source: Bicknell et al (3 September 2014) Current Biology 24: pR1119
Gene cluster promises insect resistant rice
Billions of dollars are lost every year to the brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens) - a phloem-sucking herbivore that almost exclusively feeds on rice (Oryza sativa). While 28 resistance loci have been identified and some of them - e.g. bph1 and bph2 - have been used in breeding programmes, the herbivore has invariably adapted and broken down resistance within a few years. The molecular basis of one of the more promising candidates, bph3, has hitherto been unknown but has now been cloned and characterized by Jianmin Wan from Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, China. The resistance locus turns out to be a cluster of three genes encoding plasma membrane-localized lectin receptor kinases that apparently confers broad spectrum insect resistance. All seedlings of a cultivar containing the bph3 gene cluster, Rathu Heenati, survived after infestation of brown planthoppers, while all seedlings of a susceptible cultivar died, and when RNAi strategies was used to knock down bph3 expression, mortality in the otherwise resistant cultivar increased from 0% to 50-100%. The Chinese scientists used both transgenic and marker-assisted selection strategies to insert the gene cluster in susceptible rice cultivars and this rendered them almost completely resistant.
Source: Liu et al (8 December 2014) Nature Biotechnology doi:10.1038/nbt.3069

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Report from the 1st SPPS Early Career Principle Investigator (ECPI) Meeting

Participants of the 1st SPPS ECPI meeting held in Nantaali Finland on 25-26 November 2014. Click to enlarge. Photo by Kirk Overmyer
The next generation of Scandinavian plant scientists are getting organized. On 25-26 November, a group of twenty one early career PIs met at the Nantaali Spa Hotel in Western Finland for the first ECPI Meeting. The purpose of the meeting was for early career researchers to meet their peers in order to promote collaboration and common grant proposals between SPPS members and other researchers in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The meeting was organized by a committee of eleven researchers from Finland and Norway, which was chaired by Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi from the University of Turku. Michael Wrzaczek, from the University of Helsinki, was the secretary. The full organizing committee along with other information about the first meeting can be found at

Participants included representatives from Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The program highlighted the research carried out on photoautotrophic organisms by these groups working on widely different aspects, such as plant physiology, molecular biology, ecophysiology and bioenergy. All participants presented their research to the group with an emphasis on future goals and points for collaboration. Time was allowed in the presentations for discussion of the individual projects and larger organizational issues were also discussed in round table sessions.

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Position available: SPPS Society Secretary at Lund

A new position as Society Secretary is available at SPPS. From
SPPS is seeking a qualified person for a new full-time position as a Society Secretary. The position is to be located in Lund, Sweden, in connection with the Physiologia Plantarum office, where a new permanent SPPS office will be located. The position is available from 1st May 2015, and applications should be sent by January 30th 2015 to the SPPS office at You can download the full application announcement here.

The secretary will work both for the society and join the journal's editorial team. Duties of the position will include:
  • Society administration tasks
    • corresponding with society members etc
    • managing the member register
    • paying bills and keeping the books
    • managing the SPPS website
    • arranging administrative meetings
    • managing smaller SPPS events
  • Journal administrative and editorial tasks
    • managing PPL events and administrative meetings
    • gathering of journal citation data etc.
    • communicating with editors, reviewers and authors
    • editing/correcting manuscripts etc
We are looking for a person with suitable qualifications and experience in the above-mentioned duties. The person needs to have good computer skills, fluent skills in English (written and spoken), and good communication skills. A degree in biological sciences is an advantage, but not vital. Applications must include CV and contact information for 2-3 persons for reference. For more information, please contact SPPS Secretary General Anna Kärkönen ( or Physiologia Plantarum Editor-in-chief Vaughan Hurry (

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Time to renew your membership

Renew or sign up now. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.
Now, it is time to renew your SPPS membership and you can do so very easily on our membership page. You have several options for membership - both student or regular - and you can choose to pay only for next year or get 33% discount by paying upfront for 5 years. Moreover, you can top-up your membership with a print subscription to our journal Physiologia Plantarum. All fees are the same as last year.

SPPS membership fees for 2015
Membership type1 year5 year5 year saving
Regular members30 €100 €33%
Student members15 €  50 €33%
Additional print subscription to Physiologia Plantarum140 € per year

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Presentation of speakers for Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015: Battlegrounds and romance

Claudia Köhler will talk about epigenetic mechanisms for parental conflicts. From
In our series of presenting the keynote speakers at the 26th SPPS Congress, Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015, we will this time turn to the session on Epigenetics and gene regulations and the first part of the High throughput biology session. According to the preliminary programme, they are planned to take off on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, respectively. The session on epigenetics will be opened by Claudia Köhler from SLU, Uppsala in Sweden. She will report from the battleground for parental conflict which occurs in the endosperm and serves as the driving force for evolution of incompatible allele combinations. "This topic allows to address a very fundamental problem of biology that has fascinated many biologists since Darwin: Why are there so many species in the world?" says Claudia, and research in her lab has revealed that epigenetic mechanisms have a strong impact on plant speciation. This was very recently discussed in a review article in Current Opinion in Plant Biology that she wrote together with her colleague Clément Lafon-Placette.

Claudia got her PhD at University of Freiburg, Germany and subsequently spent 10 years in Switzerland at University of Zürich and ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) but in 2010 she got an offer she couldn't refuse: both her and her husband (Lars Hennig, working on chromatin as a regulatory element) were offered faculty positions at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) in Uppsala, Sweden. Both are now professors at the same department and find that the country offers support to combine career and family in all possible ways, which has been very helpful over the last years.

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Swedish plant scientists oppose anti-GMO lobbyists

Activists uproot genetically modified corn plants in Southern France earlier this year. Photo from AFP/Getty Images/Wall Street Journal
In October, four Swedish plant scientists raised concern about how NGOs and politicians are neglecting or manipulating scientific evidence on the safety of genetically modified crops and thereby spur a negative public opinion to GMOs on an unjustified grounding. The scientists argue that GM plants - either used as crops or for research - are key to solving some of the greatest challenges facing mankind and that scientific evidence almost invariably have proved their safety. Many NGOs and politicians, however, base their opinions on almost religious beliefs rather than scientific evidence and accordingly misinform the public and undermine their confidence in GMOs.

From SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) in Uppsala, Jens Sundström, professor of plant physiology, and Torbjörn Fagerström, professor emeritus of ecology, made their point in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on October 29. They use the term parallel science to describe how NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe suppress scientific consensus and instead highlight isolated and often dubious research that support their own agenda. They also accuse certain politicians for taking an anti-GMO stance on the basis of ideology rather than knowledge and therefore making their opinion unamenable to rationale debate. According to the authors, this is "a threat to democracy it-self, which depends on a well-informed voting public" and is hampering a solution for the worlds pressing environmental problems.

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Education corner: Using science in an increasingly internet driven age

In an increasingly internet driven age, what skills do people need to help them interpret and understand important scientific issues? Photo by auremar,
Advancing biology education has always been integral to the mission of the SPPS education committee. Since the conception of the committee, we have recognised the importance of reaching out, not only to those involved in academia, but also to future scientists, science educators and the general public. This is a huge task, not least because we span four countries, five languages (six if you include English!) and recognise the importance of reaching out to all levels of education. As we plan how to proceed with our mission in the coming years, is it time to stop and think how science education is changing? For many years science education was based on memorising and regurgitating facts. This system has become out-dated because all known facts are easily accessible at our fingertips through the internet. Is it therefore time to focus science education and outreach, not about teaching or preaching facts, but instead about teaching how to deal with the facts?

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Design and technical solution © 2004 Palmgren kommunikation. SPPS Newsletter is edited by Gorm Palmgren.
All articles - unless otherwise stated - are written by Gorm Palmgren.