The SPPS PhD conference is is now open for registration. From www.phd-spps.com

The 5th biannual SPPS PhD conference is now open for online registration on the link provided below. The event takes place January 24-27 2008 at Haslev Højskole 60 km south of Copenhagen. SPPS encourages PhD students to participate and have a number of travel grants available.

The conference will take a practical approach to plant biology with emphasis on methods, techniques and applications. Apart from scientific contributions from PhD students, international scientists have been invited to cover the main topics:

  • Photosynthesis and Respiration: Simon Geir Møller – Norway
  • Plant Development and Adaptation: Cathie Martin – UK/DK & Marten Koornneef – NL
  • Molecular Cell Biology: Rebecca Schwab – USA
  • Method section: Hussam H. Nour-Eldin – DK
  • Abiotic and Biotic Stress: To be announced
  • Transport and Signalling: To be announced

Registration can be made online and costs 2600 DKK (about 350 €) for SPPS members – for non-members there is a 1000 DKK surcharge, but keep in mind that you can get a SPPS membership for just 200 DKK!

You can register and read more about the conference on its official homepage.

Physiologia Plantarum is on track for the future. From www.blackwell-synergy.com

Physiologia Plantarum is the prestigious journal of SPPS and since it was restructured more than two years ago, it has become even more popular among plant scientists. Every three minutes an article is downloaded from the journal’s website, summing up to an amazing 200,000 downloads annually, which is a very good rate in comparison to other journals.

The number of submitted manuscript has seen an increase of almost 50% during the period, and since the number of published articles has been roughly constant, the rejection rate has increased substantially. This critical reviewing process – where almost two thirds of the manuscripts get rejected – translates directly into a higher quality of the published articles. For the clear benefit of the readers, publishing in Physiologia Plantarum is now a challenge for the contributing scientists.

It is not just whip for the authors, however, plenty of carrots have been given, too. On average, authors will know if their paper has been accepted already 35 days after submission, and upon acceptance proofs are send out much faster than before.

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Biofuels can reduce emission of CO2 and noxious pollutants. Illustration by Gorm Palmgren.

EU, the Danish government and several other governments alike have committed themselves to fight the global climate crisis. And one way to do it is to focus on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Wind, water and sunlight are excellent natural resources to produce environmentally friendly electricity since they do not involve combustion and CO2 emission, but with inefficient battery technology they are less suited for transportation.

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Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology is situated in Turku, Finland. From vanha.sci.utu.fi/kasvimb/ukhome.html

If you ever go visit someone in outer space, remember to stop by at Turku and pick up some flowers or other photosynthetic organisms. One of the many aspects of plant biology they study is namely the suitability of higher plants and microalgae for use as biological life support systems under the harsh conditions on Mars or other distant destinations in space.

And though outer space is not the laboratory’s favorite experimental playground, their research is focused on how environmental conditions affect the life processes of plants and cyanobacteria. Photosynthesis – and in particular the dynamics of photosystem II – is a key aspect where cyanobacteria are studied in parallel with Arabidopsis, and to complete the list of experimental organisms, the laboratory also utilizes fungi and plant viruses in their research.

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Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are deficient in carbon acquisition capabilities and completely depend on the roots of a host plant for carbon supply. It has been assumed that sucrose is hydrolyzed by cell wall invertases at the plant-fungus interface, and that the resulting hexoses are subsequently taken up by the fungus. The involvement of such a cell wall invertase has, however, not previously been shown, but now Spanish scientists from Granada have provided the evidence. They show that both cell wall and vacuolar invertases are upregulated in infected tomato roots, and that this is a direct consequence of fungal infection.

Read full article here: Garcia-Rodriguez et al (April 2007) Physiologia Plantarum 12: 737-746

Nearly all plants have only a single layer of root endodermal cells and this has puzzled botanists for years. The diffusible protein SHORTROOT (SHR) is known to be involved in endodermis development, but unlike similar animal morphogens it does not form a gradient across multiple cell layers. Now, researchers from the Max Planck Institute in TŸbingen, Germany have shown that SHR binds to another protein, SCARECROW (SCR), in the adjacent cell layer. The complex soaks up free SHR and moves to the nucleus where it promotes SHR transcription. This further depletes the amount of free SHR and effectively blocks diffusion and endodermis formation. Homologies of SCR and SHR between Arabidopsis and rice suggest that the mechanism evolved early in plant evolution and has been maintained since then.

Source: Cui et al (20 April 2007) Science 316: 421-425

Graham Fleming and colleagues at University of California in Berkeley have discovered that quantum mechanical effects appear to play a role in photosynthesis. Using spectroscopy, they observed how light-induced excitations in a bacteriochlorophyll complex meet and interfere – much like the interactions that occur between the ripples formed by throwing stones into a pond. The phenomenon is called ‘quantum beating’ and is a wavelike energy transfer process. It is a very efficient way to transfer energy and can explain the high efficiency of photosynthesis.

Source: Engel et al (12 April 2007) Nature 446: 782-786

Transgenic Arabidopsis that turn red in the presence of explosives will be presented at the SPPS PhD conference. Photo by Henrik Freek.

A couple more speakers have been announced for the 5th biannual SPPS PhD conference that will take place January 24-27 2008 at Haslev Højskole 60 km south of Copenhagen. It is Professor Heribert Hirt from University of Vienna, Austria, who will deliver the keynote presentation on the topic Abiotic and Biotic Stress. Heribert Hirt makes extensive use of Arabidopsis mutants to investigate perception and transduction of stress signalling as well as programmed cell death and other stress related responses.

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Above: The fluorescent probe (black sphere) absorb a photon (blue) and moves to an exited state. When it returns to the stable ground state a photon (green) is released. In some cases, two low-energy photons (red) can excite a probe which subsequently emits a single high-energy photon (green). Below: Typical excitation and emission spectra for a fluorescent probe. From Vonesh et al (May 2006) IEEE Sig Proc Mag

Biologists have come to depend more and more on bioimaging as a tool to identify and locate specific proteins and molecules in their natural environment. With the recent development of probes and microscopes, biological processes can be monitored in real time in two or three dimensions. And observations can even be made non-invasively so a cellular process can be followed over an extended period of time.

Bioimaging relies on probes that are attached to proteins or other molecules of interest. These probes are fluorescent and as such emit light of a specific wavelength when they are excited by light of another – usually shorter – wavelength. Cells and their components are mainly transparent and the myriad of molecules within them are indistinguishable from each other in a normal microscope. But if the protein of interest lights up in bright green, it is easy to detect and distinguish from all other molecules in the cell.

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Carbohydrate signalling in e.g. symbiosis is studied by CARB. From www.carb.dk

Less than a year ago, CARB was announced as a new Centre of Excellence by the Danish National Research Foundation. CARB (Centre for Carbohydrate Recognition and Signalling) is headed by Professor Jens Stougaard at University of Aarhus, and most researchers from the new centre come from his group at the Department of Molecular Biology. However, Professor Knud Jørgen Jensen from University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Professor Herman Spaink from University of Leiden (The Netherlands) and Professor Clive Ronson from University of Otago (New Zealand) do also participate.

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