SPPS Newsletter August 2009

Index of Issue II 2009

SPPS Newsletter is back after the summer.

SPPS welcomes you back to the lab from a – hopefully nice, long – summer vacation. This issue of SPPS Newsletter is just a short one, but we will be back already in September with news from the Executive Board Meeting which will be held in the last week of August.

Preparations are well on their way for the FESPB 2010 congress in Valencia. From www.geyseco.es

The next congress of the Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology (FESPB) will be held in the Spanish city of Valencia on 4-9 July 2010. The scientific programme will cover almost all aspects of plant biology with a focus on multidisciplinary approaches like systems biology, genetics, molecular cell biology, biochemistry, and ecophysiology. The FESPB congresses have gained status as one of the most important congresses in plant biology not only in Europe but also globally, and the last congress in Tampere, Finland in 2008 (see former article in SPPS Newsletter) gathered about 1100 participants from 60 countries.

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The PUMPKIN laboratories are situated both at the University of Aarhus and the University of Copenhagen. From www.pumpkin.au.dk

Some goals are just too ambitious to meet for a single research group. Deciphering the 3 dimensional structure of complex proteins not only requires the expertise in x-ray crystallography but also a unique knowledge of the proteins biochemistry and the molecular biological processes it participates in. Bearing this in mind, PUMPKIN, Centre for Membrane Pumps in Cells and Disease, was established in 2007 as a highly interdisciplinary research centre funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. The PUMPKIN laboratories are situated both at the University of Aarhus and the University of Copenhagen, and their research is focused on five ion pumps that are fundamental to life and are present in all cells of either plants, animals and bacteria. These are the P-type ATPases pumping either sodium/potassium, proton/potassium, calcium, protons or heavy metals over the the plasma membrane or internal membranes.

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Pierce’s disease has become a major problem for wine growers in California and Central America. It is caused by the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa that uses leafhoppers for transmission. In diseased plants, a gel like substance forms in the xylem tissue and leaves turn yellow and brown. It is generally believed that symptoms arise from occlusion of xylem conduits but this may not be so according to new research conducted by Brendan Choat and colleagues at University of California, Davis. They measured leaf hydraulic conductance (i.e. how easy water is transported) in infected and uninfected Vitis vinifera cv. Chardonnay under different irrigation regimes and found that susceptibility to Pierce’s disease was apparently favored by water stress. In addition, hydraulic conductance of infected leaves from field-grown vines was similar to naturally senescing leaves. From these results the researchers concluded that infection of X. fastidiosa leads to a systemic response that accelerates senescence.

Read full article here: Choat et al. (March 2009) Physiologia Plantarum 136: 384-394

Most industrially applied filamentous fungi used for biotechnological production of organic chemicals, enzymes, and antibiotic are considered to be largely asexual. Without the ability to make sexual crossings, researchers are left with classical mutagenesis for screening and improving their strains, and this is not a very efficient approach. However, researchers from Vienna University of Technology, Austria, now reports that they have induced sexual reproduction of Trichoderma reesei, which is widely used for production of cellulolytic and hemicellulolytic enzymes. They located the MAT1-2 mating type locus in T. reesi QM6a and identified its respective mating type counterpart, MAT1-1, in natural isolates of its teleomorph, Hypocrea jecorina. Monika Schmoll, who led the research, hope that sexual crossing approaches in T. reesi can lead to more efficient biofuel production.

Source: Seidl et al. (18 August 2009) PNAS 106: 13909-13914

Orchids use all kinds of tricks to lure pollinators. They have nothing real to offer but excel in pretending to look or smell like more rewarding flowers or potential mates. Now, for the first time, German and Chinese scientists report how an orchid attracts its pollinator by smelling like its favorite prey. The pollinator is a hornet that feeds its larvae with honeybees. Upon attack, honeybees send out an alarm pheromone, Z-11-eicosen-1-ol, to warn their friends, but unfortunately other hornets interprete the alarm as an invitation to join the feast. But now it seems that the hornets get fooled as well. The flowers of the orchid, Dendrobium sinense, was found to produce the alarm pheromone, and this explains the observation that hornets often ‘attack’ the red center of the flower in a seemingly hunting fashion.

Source: Brodmann et al (25 August 2009) Current Biology 19: 1-5