IN THIS ISSUE
Join the General Assembly
Worldwide interest for the 26th SPPS Congress in Stockholm
Presenting the speakers at Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015: Fascination and probiotics
SPPS gets new secretary and office in Lund
Jaakko Kangasjärvi: President of SPPS 2008-2015
Plant pathogens turn into food additives
Scandinavian research institute:
School of Biotechnology, KTH/AlbaNova University Center, Stockholm, Sweden
BROWSE ISSUES

NEWS FROM
PHYSIOLOGIA PLANTARUM
Published monthly on behalf of SPPS by Wiley-Blackwell.
Transgenic salt tolerance
Over 6% of the worlds total land area is naturally salt-affected and even more is becoming so as a consequence of mismanaged agricultural practices like land clearing, improper irrigation etc. Salt stress affects plants not only by causing water shortage but also through toxicity of Na+ and Cl- ions as well as shortage of K+, Ca2+ and NO3. In a transgenic line of canola (Brassica napus), Liang-ju Wang and co-workers from Nanjing Agricultural University in China seems to have solved at least some of the problems. They used a light-induced Yhem1 gene encoding aminolevulinate synthase which is crucial for biosynthesis of 5-aminolevulinate (5-ALA). This compound has previously been shown to confer increased salt tolerance. Transgenic Yhem1-canola yielded more than three times more seeds than wildtype plants when grown under high-salt conditions and also accumulated more shoot and root biomass. Short-term experiments revealed that this was probably due to higher expression of the gene encoding Rubisco small subunit as well as increased diurnal photosynthetic rates in transgenic plants. Cl- levels in leaves was significantly reduced in the transgenic plants and so was K+ and several other ions, while Fe accumulation was improved.
Read full article here: Sun et al (June 2015) Physiologia Plantarum 154: 223

NEWS IN BRIEF
FROM OTHER JOURNALS
Pesticides impairs olfaction
Neonicotinoid pesticides have been suggested as a major cause for honey bee colony collapse disorder, and a new study by Ken Tan from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in China lends support to this theory. They observed that sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoids can impair the ability of Asian honey bees (Apis cerana) to associate floral odours with nectar rewards, thereby facilitating foraging and pollination. The scientists captured wild foragers and fed them sucrose with the neonicotinoid imidacloprid , which is widely used in China. Exposed and un-exposed bees were then subjected to an olfactory conditioning protocol, testing for both short term (10 minutes) and long term (11 hours) learning. The negative effect on olfactory learning was evident for both adults and larvae but manifested in different ways. Adult bees displayed 1.6-fold reduced long term learning acquisition, whereas larvae exhibited almost 5-fold poorer short term learning acquisition when they subsequently grew up to become adult bees. In the latter case, however, long term learning was not affected. The authors have no explanation as to why larval-treated bees recovered their longer-term memories, while this was not the case for bees treated as adults.
Source: Tan et al (18 June 2015) Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/srep10989
Climate-driven biodiversity loss
Changes in biodiversity have been reported globally to go both up and down in various ecological communities, but so far only a few of these changes have been linked to climate change. Now, Susan Harrison and co-workers from University of California, Davis have monitored plant diversity on a 27 km2 semiarid California grassland over 15 years. They found several signs of loss of biodiversity to correlate with decreased midwinter precipitation, while other possible causes such as livestock grazing, fire, nitrogen deposition, and invasive species could be ruled out. The number of plant species declined over the period both at local sites and within the whole area, and native annual wildflowers were most affected. The mean specific leaf area (SLA) declined in this group of plants, and since high SLA is an indicator of low drought tolerance, this suggests that drought-intolerant plants were specifically lost. That explanation was supported by the observation, that biodiversity loss was most pronounced on fertile, non-serpentine soils. Since many semiarid regions are expected to become increasingly dry due to climate change in the near future, the authors believe that this may foreshadow extensive biodiversity loss, larger-scale extinctions and lower productivity.
Source: Harrison et al (22 June 2015) PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.1502074112

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Join the General Assembly

 
From www.easyfairs.com
The SPPS General Assembly will take place on Wednesday 12 August at 2 PM in Aula Magna at Stockholm University during the SPPS Congress (Plant Biology Scandinavia). We urge all members to join the General Assembly as there are important issues on the agenda. First and foremost, a new President must be elected since the present one, Jaakko Kangasjärvi, is stepping down. He was elected president in 2009 and has held the post for three periods, which is the maximum according to the SPPS Bylaws. In an accompanying article you can read Jaakko's own story about the six years in front of SPPS.

Not only the President is stepping down, actually this goes for the whole Council. So another important issue on the agenda is to elect all 7 Council members, including those with special responsibilities as President (as already mentioned), Vice President, Secretary General, Treasurer and Journal Responsible. The elections will take place during the General Assembly, so please show up and have your say! The agenda will also include the regular items:
  • Report about the Society's preceding activities from the Council
  • News about Physiologia Plantarum from the Journal Responsible
  • Financial report from the Auditors
If you have any suggestions to the agenda, please don't hesitate to contact the election committee or SPPS secretariat at office@spps.fi.

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Worldwide interest for the 26th SPPS Congress in Stockholm

 
Last SPPS Conference in Elsinore, Denmark took delegates for a social tour to Hamlet's Castle, Kronborg. Photo by Tom Hamborg Nielsen
The upcoming SPPS Congress in Stockholm has generated interest all over the World. In the beginning of June there were registrations from 30 different countries on all continents. There is a good number of poster presentations and the program for oral presentations is now finalized with a highly interesting series of talks, presented below. Don't forget to register and remember that June 30th is the deadline for most of the social events! You can read more about the Conference here and see the updated program below. We are looking forward to seeing you!

Read the whole scientific program below:

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Presenting the speakers at Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015: Fascination and probiotics

 
Jaakko Kangasjärvi studies the complex signalling pathways induced by ozone exposure. From Plant, Cell & Environment (2015) 38: 240
The 26th SPPS Congress, Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015, in Stockholm is just around the corner and in our quest to present all the speakers, we take on with the remaining six. Jaakko Kangasjärvi (Helsinki, Finland), Kazuko Yamaguchi-Shinozaki (Tokyo, Japan), Karin Metzlaff (Brussels, Belgium), Celia Knight (Cambridge, UK), Jens stougaard (Aarhus, Denmark) and Paul Schulze-Lefert (Cologne, Germany). According to the preliminary programme, they will present their lectures on Wednesday and Thursday addressing the sessions Abiotic stress (Kangasjärvi and Yamaguchi-Shinozaki), Education and outreach (Metzlaff and Knight) and Biotic interactions (Stougaard and Schulze-Lefert). Jaakko Kangasjärvi will open the conference's programme on Wednesday by a talk about reactive oxygen species (ROS). They have traditionally been described as harmful, destructive byproducts of metabolism that involves electron transfer and accidental 'leakage' of electrons to molecular oxygen. More recently, however, they are regarded as important signal molecules that relay information about changes in the cells' external and internal environment, giving the plant an opportunity to respond to changing conditions.

When Kangasjärvi first established his own research group, he took an environmental approach to studying the molecular responses of plants to the air pollutant ozone. "Soon we realized that ozone is actually also a very convenient tool to study the role of extracellular ROS as signaling molecules," he says and explains that this led to a shift in the group's research to focus on identification and characterization of components involved in ROS sensing and signaling. Ozone is still of major interest for Kangasjärvi and in a review from 2015 in Plant, Cell and Environment, he and group member Julia Vainonen discuss recent advances in our understanding of ozone interactions with plants and how it can be used as an experimental tool. Kangasjärvi has been several times in Stockholm, so he has no intentions to go sightseeing but will devote all his time to the conference.

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SPPS gets new secretary and office in Lund

 
Maria Lundmark is the new SPPS office secretary. Photo courtesy of Maria Lundmark
In an effort to streamline its administration, SPPS has reorganised itself. Previously, the office secretary was located in the country holding the presidency (presently Finland), but a new and permanent office has now been established in the Swedish city of Lund. As a consequence, Jarmo Juuti from Helsinki University is no longer secretary, but has been replaced by Maria Lundmark. Maria holds a PhD in molecular plant physiology from Umeå University and got a post doc position in Copenhagen afterwards. She started her new position 1st May, but will not be fully up and running until after the General Assembly in Stockholm this summer.

"I am to run the SPPS office which involves taking care of all everyday tasks. I will do the book keeping, manage the membership list, manage the homepage and also be of general assistance to the council and society," Maria says and continues that she really enjoys it so far. The society secretary position is only a 50% position, but Maria also has another 50% position as journal assistant at the Physiologia Plantarum editorial office. It is conveniently (and deliberately) located at the same place, and here Maria enjoys the company of her two new colleagues: Senior technical editor Karin Fredriksson and managing editor Leif Nord.

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Jaakko Kangasjärvi: President of SPPS 2008-2015

 
Outgoing president of SPPS, Jaakko Kangasjärvi, with the activity report presented at the General Assembly 2013 in Elsinore, Copenhagen. Photo by Tim Hamborg Nielsen
The SPPS presidency and the office were moved from Copenhagen to Helsinki after the change of the president and the council in the FESPB 2008 meeting in Tampere (which was also an SPPS meeting with general assembly). Now, in the Stockholm SPPS meeting the three terms allowed for one person to be a president will be over and the presidency and the SPPS office will move from Finland. So, what have we done during these three terms, seven years altogether?

When we received the society from the previous council, the society was in good shape both in organization and function, and financially. We did discuss various possibilities to make the society more visible, to increase membership and hopefully to be also involved in science policy and plant research community activities. The most important long-term activities turned out to be making new membership register system which also handles membership payments and are integrated into the new society web pages, emailing and Newsletter. This was a long process which required creation of all these from scratch with "public domain" platform that is independent from any specific vendor or company. Now the system should be ready and the new council should be able to start using it without any major changes and development required.

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Plant pathogens turn into food additives

 
The bacteria Xanthomonas campestris is responsible for a variety of plant disease and for the consistency of salad dressings. Composed by Gorm Palmgren from gardener.wikia.com and chefzhoro.wordpress.com
We normally try to avoid pathogens - from our own bodies but also from our crops. But sometimes plant pathogens can actually come in handy and the food industry knows that very well. Many well known food additives have their origin in these pests and allthough that might give them a natural label it can also be perceived as quite disgusting. Nobody would like to eat bacterial slime or bugs, so the industry handily calls it E415 or E904 instead. There is nothing unnatural about the thick, creamy consistency of ready-to-eat salad dressings and sauces. But you might be surprised to know, that the good result is garantied by slime from the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris that causes rot and several other diseases on cabbage, broccoli and many more crops.

The plant pathogen produces a viscous slime known as xanthan gum for its own protection. It is a natural product consisting of three kinds of sugar molecules put together in long, branched chains. It is a very effective thickening agent and as little as 5 grams of xanthan gum can turn 1 liter of water into a sauce with the same consistency as ketchup. The food industry takes advantage of this to change the viscosity of salad dressings and sauces so they are more easy to dispense and also stick better to vegetables and meats. A special characteristic of xanthan gum is that mechanical forces temporarily make it loose its thickening properties. This means that the sauce is easy to pour when you have just shaken the bottle, but almost immediately regains its original consistency on the plate.

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Scandinavian research institute:
School of Biotechnology, KTH/AlbaNova University Center, Stockholm, Sweden

 
AlbaNova main entrance. Photo by Torkel Berglund
The plant research at the School of Biotechnology at KTH was initiated during the 1980s. At that time, the department was located within the old parts of KTH main campus at Valhallavägen in Stockholm, and in 2001 it was moved to AlbaNova University Center at Roslagstull.

From start, the plant research concerned production of secondary metabolites (expensive pharmaceuticals) in plant cell cultures. Later on the focus was changed towards an understanding of stress and defense in plants in general. Nowadays the plant research at the School of Biotechnology covers a wide range of topics.

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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.