SPPS Newsletter November 2008

Index of Issue II 2008

Tampere Hall was the venue for the FeSPB 2008 Congress. From www.eu2006.fi

The Federation of the European Societies of Plant Biology (FESPB) arranges a large plant biology congress every other year. This year the congress venue was Tampere Hall in the city of Tampere in southern Finland. The congress was organized by the Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society, SPPS, during 17-22 August. In addition to the congress, Tampere hall housed two satellite meetings, MOSS 2008 and PEROXIDASE 2008. Kurt Fagerstedt from Helsinki University reports from the meeting:

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Professor Jaakko Kangasjärvi is the new President of SPPS. Photo courtesy of University of Helsinki.

The general assembly of SPPS was held in connection with the FESPB Congress, and the new SPPS council was elected. Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi from University of Helsinki was elected new President of SPPS. He graduated in plant physiology at the University of Minnesota. After returning to Finland, he has held positions at the universities in Kuopio, Turku and Helsinki. His primary interest is genetic regulation of programmed cell death and defence responses, and how this regulation is influenced by hormonal signalling and reactive oxygen species.

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A meeting on reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in plants. Photo courtesy of SFRR.

The Society for Free Radical Research Plant Oxygen Group would like to announce a meeting on reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in plants: Plant ROS 2009 in Helsinki, Finland on July 8-10. Registration and abstract submission will start on December 15, 2008. Registration fee will be 400 €. The deadline for abstract submission will be March 1, 2009, after which the registration fee will be 450 €. The number of beds at the conference venue is limited, thus we encourage early registration.

Read more about the conference at the official homepage.

Will organic produce or transgenic crops save humanity for the food and climate crises? From Financial Times.

Facing two global crises of immense impact on humanity – the food crisis and global warming – agricultural practices have once again become a central issue of debate. An emerging middle class in China, Asia and South America wants meat from grain-fed animals, but at the same time more and more farmers are growing maize and sugar cane for production of biofuels rather than food or feed. In June 2008, Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, called for a 50% increase in global food production by 2030, and Monsanto – the worlds leading producer of transgenic seed – was quick to offer its assistance. Claiming that transgenic seeds would be part of the solution, a company spokesman promised to deliver seeds of maize, soybeans and cotton with two times the yield and 30% less requirement of water and fertilizer within that timeframe.

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Plastid is a spin-off from University of Stavanger that produces proteins in transgenic plants. From www.plastid.no

Most of the research in natural sciences at the University of Stavanger is related to chemistry, and this is no coincidence as the rich Norwegian oil- and gasfields in the North Sea are not far away. But some room has been spared for plant sciences and last year this resulted in a biotech spin-off company, Plastid AS. The company expresses proteins in chloroplasts of transgenic plants that have been subject to plastid transformation. The aim is to produce known proteins for research, aqua cultures, feed producers and the pharmaceutical industry as well as to design novel proteins for specific uses.

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A dehydrin protein from Rhododendron plays a key role in freezing tolerance due to protection from cellular dehydration caused by extracellular freezing. Rajeev Arora and co-workers from Iowa State University have shown that purified RcDhn5-encoded acidic SK2 type dehydrin can protect enzyme activity against dehydration in in viro assays. When the gene was constitutively expressed in Arabidopsis, the transgenic plants exhibited increased freezing tolerance withour prior cold acclimation. With cold acclimation, however, the effect was less pronounced. This is apparently due to dilution of the Rhododendron dehydrin by less effective native dehydrins.

Read full article here: Peng et al. (December 2008) Physiologia Plantarum 134: 583-597

The use of edible plants for first generation biofuels has been critized for leeding to increased food prices, biodiversity losses etc. Now Douglas A. Landis from Michigan State University propose a new argument against their use, claiming that they can lead to increased pest problems. Aphids are a huge problem in several crops like soybean, but they are relatively well controlled by their natural enemy, the ladybird beetle. Corn used for biofuels do, however, not support aphids and consequently extensive planting of corn leeds to reduced numbers of ladybirds. Studies in four US states have shown that use of corn for biofuels reduces the biocontrol of aphids in soybean by up to 25%.

Source: Landis et al. (23 December 2008) PNAS 105: 20552-20557

A research team from the US, France and Sweden have shown how mechanical forces can create patterns in developing plant tissues. To investigate the role of microtubules, they were depolymerized by oryzalin and this led to distinct changes in cell geometry while several other morphological characteristics were not affected. Further experiments showed that microtubules are part of a feedback loop with stress patterns and tissue morphology that is responsible for morphogenesis.

Source: Hamant et al (12 December 2008) Science 322: 1650-1655