SPPS Newsletter September 2005

Index of Issue IV 2005

Renew or sign up now. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.

It is time to renew your membership for 2006 – or to sign up if you are not already a member. Renew right here or go to our Members section to learn more about the benefits of joining SPPS and see how you can signup online.

SPPS membership fee is only DKK 200 (US$ 35) or DKK 1100 (US$ 195) including a full years subscription to our international journal Physiologi Plantarum. For this low prize you get a lot:

  • Free bimonthly SPPS newsletter
  • Discounts on registration fees to SPPS Congresses
  • Possibilities of obtaining travel grants
  • No page charges for Physiologia Plantarum
  • An electronic membership directory

Renew or sign up right now here!

SPPS expresses its view on a hot topic in ‘Our opinion’. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.

Beginning late 2005, two new thematic articles will appear in each issue of SPPS Newsletter. One will be a Special feature covering a hot topic in plant biology and the second will be an editorial, Our opinion, where SPPS expresses its view on this selected topic.

The Special feature will provide background information about a field of general interest to plant biologists. Rather than informing on new scientific achievements, Special feature‘s will address more political and societal subjects with relevance to research.

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With a total of € 71 billion, the annual budget of FP7 is more than doubled compared to FP6. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.

On 21 September 2005 the European Commission agreed on a proposal for the Seventh Framework Programme, FP7, which will be launched at the end of 2006. FP7 is very ambitious and will mark a 118% increase in the annual budget as compared to the present FP6.

Among the several changes implemented in the FP7 are a more simplified structure based on four pillars, a 7-year period instead of the usual 4, and the creation of a European Research Council. Many plant biologists will be happy to note that the EU is now once again embracing plant biotechnology. In the introduction to one of the 9 research themes supported – Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology – the Commission states:

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Professor Jan K. Schjørring, President of SPPS, expresses his views on the upcoming EU FP7. Photo courtesy of SPPS.

1. Is research in plant biology and biotechnology sufficiently covered by FP7?
The draft version of the FP7 themes appears rather promising, but it has to be remembered, that the exact content is yet to be formulated and finally appoved.

2. How important do you consider the EU Framework Programmes?
The EU Framework Programmes constitute an important source of research funding. At the same time they stimulate valuable collaboration with researchers in other countries. As such, they are very important.

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Professor Tapio Palva is Head of the Centre of Excellence in Plant Signal Research. Photo by Gorm Palmgren.

If you want to know anything about Finnish research in plant molecular biology you should definitely talk to Professor Tapio Palva who is heading the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Plant Signal Research.

In addition to being a large, focused research group by itself, Tapio Palva also coordinates the entire Plant Biology Research Program at Helsinki University where a large part of Finnish research in plant molecular biology is going on. And moreover, the Centre of Excellence is a key element in the newly formed graduate school in plant biology.

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While global warming seems to be an undeniable fact, its consequences are more difficult to predict. Many researchers have found that increased summer temperatures lead to delayed senescence at autumn but this is not always the case and apparently depends on the species and the location. Belgian scientists have studied the effect of a 3 °C rise in temperature on two domestic weeds. Rumex acetosa and Plantago lanceolata are grassland species, an important ecotype that covers 50% of Belgium and 20% of global land surfaces. After 2 seasons in sunlit, climate-controlled growth chambers, the researchers concluded that the elevated temperature might benefit total photosynthetic performance but that increased drought stress might reduce lifespan of the leaves. The effect of climate changes accordingly depends on the species ability to overcome drought.

Read full article here: Gielen et al (September 2005) Physiologia Plantarum 125: 52-63

Researchers at Umeå Plant Science Centre (see former article) have discovered a flower-inducing molecule that seemingly fulfil all criteria for being the long-sought mysterious substance ‘florigen’. The molecule is the mRNA of the FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) gene from Arabidopsis. FT is expressed in the leaf phloem and is controlled by day length. By fusing FT to the GUS reporter gene, Ove Nilsson and his colleagues could show that the FT mRNA is subsequently transported systemically to the shoot apex where it triggers sustained local expression irrespective of day length. This leads to flowering within 2 weeks. When the FT gene was put under control of a heat shock inducible promoter, the researchers showed that induction of a single leaf was sufficient to cause the plant to flower.

Source: Huang et al (9 September 2005) Science 23: 1177-1180

Researchers from the Danish biotech company Novozymes have for the first time discovered an endogenous fungal defensin, i.e. an antimicrobial peptide. Defensins are believed to occur in all plants and animals, where they effectively act against bacteria, fungi and viruses, but commercial production of purified defensins has until now not been possible. However, the new fungal peptide, plectasin, can be produced in large scale in Novozymes’ proprietary fungal expression systems. In vitro studies showed that plectasin killed Streptococcus pneumoniae as effectively as penicillin, and it was also able to cure mice from pneumonia. Plectasin acts in other ways and does not show cross-resistance to conventional antibiotics. Accordingly, it can be used to overcome the growing problems with bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Source: Mygind et al (13 October 2005) Nature 437: 975-980