SPPS Newsletter June 2010

Index of Issue II 2010

Education is essential for promoting plant biology as a science. From www.mhhe.com

SPPS council has decided to establish an Education Committee. Education, at all levels, has a key role in promoting plant biology as a science. Teachers in plant biology at universities need an increased opportunity to develop teaching didactics and course content. Plant biology needs to be better promoted in the whole educational system, among both teachers and pupils. SPPS provides an excellent platform to join forces at the Nordic level in such an endeavour.

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Centre for Organelle Research (CORE) at The University of Stavanger wil host the SPPS Congress. From core.uis.no

The next SPPS Congress will be hosted by Centre for Organelle Research at The University of Stavanger, Norway from 21-24 August 2011. The congress will be held at Stavanger Forum, a professional congress centre, which is within a short walking distance to Stavanger city centre. Stavanger is a medium-sized town on the South-West coast of Norway with beautiful fjords and mountains with easy access to major European cities.

The 2011 SPPS Congress will not only allow the presentation of cutting-edge plant science research but will also place plant science in a wider context in relation to industrial applications and innovation arenas. The combination of invited plenary talks, selected oral presentations and poster sessions promises to be of great interest and value to senior scientists as well as PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.

We look forward to welcoming you to Stavanger in August 2011.

Students from Scandinavian and other countries gather for the SPPS PhD Student Conference. Illustration by Gorm Palmgren.

Registration for the 6th SPPS PhD Student Conference is now closed. The Conference will be held from 2nd to 5th September in Espoo, Finland. The number of participants in the student meetings has been increasing year by year and this time almost 100 participants have registered to the conference. This means, that the upcoming conference will be the biggest ever. Forty-five percent of the participants come from Finland, 20% from Denmark, 15 % Sweden and the rest from all over the word. There will be nine sessions and every participant will be expected to present either a talk or a poster.

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‘Plants for Life’ is the theme of the EPSO Conference. From www.epsoweb.org

The 5th EPSO Conference Plants for Life will take place in Olos, Lapland, from 29 August to 2 September 2010. The conference precedes the 6th SPPS PhD student conference (see another article in this issue of SPPS Newsletter) organised by SPPS, which is also sponsor of 5th EPSO Conference. SPPS students benefit from a reduction of €50 off the EPSO conference registration fee (registering as “Personal Member” students).

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Documents, photos, people and books shall be merged into the history of SPPS. Illustration by Gorm Palmgren.

The SPPS Secretary has now started to collect documents, pictures and other material for the book about the history of the Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society’s, that will be published in 2012 as a celebration of the Society’s 65th anniversary. While much information is available in printed or electronic form, we believe that the memories of our many members are key to a comprehensive coverage of the history of SPPS.

Maybe you overheard the discussion where the first thoughts of a Scandinavian society for plant physiologists emerged, or maybe you participated in the board meeting where it was decided to publish the journal Physiologia Plantarum? The secretary is eager to collect all kinds of information about SPPS, so if you think you can make a contribution, please don’t hesitate to contact us at spps@helsinki.fi.

You can find more information about the history project in a former article of SPPS Newsletter.

The 385 mio years old Wattieza/Eospermatopteris was the first real tree. From www.nature.com

It was like solving a puzzle and finally finding the last two pieces when archaeologists from New York State Museum in 2005 studied the fossile they had just dug out in the tiny village of Gilboa 200 km north of New York. The area has since the 1870’s been known for its numerous fossiles that can be dated to 385 mio years ago. Named Eospermatopteris, they appear to be fossilized trunks, but the canopy, that would be expected to sit at the end of the trunk, has never been found and accordingly most scientists had doubt, that this was indeed a real tree. This time, however, they also found a canopy that resembled the Wattieza species, which was known from Venezuela and Belgium and was believed to be a low fern-like plant.

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Plant sciences resides at Department of Botany. From uit.no

Well above the arctic circle in Norway you can find University of Tromsø and no other university in the world is closer to the Northpole. Historically, it dates back to 1826 where ‘Høgskolen i Tromsø’ was founded and to 1968 where ‘Universitetet i Tromsø’ was established. These two institutions eventually merged last year and formed the present university. It has around 9.000 students and 2.500 employees, which means that 17% of the population of Tromsø is directly engaged with the university. The six faculties cover most aspects of science and within the Faculty of Science and Technology is the Department of Biology with its three research groups:

  • Plant Physiology and Microbiology
  • Ecological Botany
  • Ecological Zoology

The Plant Physiology and Microbiology group has a scientific staff of around 25 and is headed by Professor Mette Svenning. She is working primarily with symbiotic nitrogen fixating as well as methane oxidizing bacteria native to the arctics. Like many of the other research groups her work take a Nordic approach and studies the adaptations to light, temperature and other climatic characteristics of the far north.

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Microarrays are increasingly being used for global expression studies and over the last few years this has been used to build up substantial information about the plant transcriptome. Using internet-based data ressources from previous analysis on Arabidopsis thaliana, Danish researchers have dissected the complex regulatory network involved in responses to phosphate deprivation. Tom Hamborg Nielsen and co-workers from University of Copenhagen and Aalborg University evaluated the functional relationship between several transcription factors, microRNAs (miRNAs) and feedback loops that contribute to keep P-homeostasis. The authors propose a model for the complex coordinated responses to phosphate starvation, which affect all parts of the plant and include Pi-signalling miRNAs that are transported via the phloem. However, the model still lacks any sensor of P-status, since the precise role of several recent candidates for this crucial function still needs to be verified.

Read full article here: Nilsson et al (June 2010) Physiologia Plantarum 139: 129-143

General belief holds that vigorous plant growth contributes positively to fresh and clean air, but recent research points to the contrary: a certain weed may actually pollute the air. Kudzu (Pueraria montana), an invasive leguminous vine native to Asia, spreads rapidly in the southeastern United States where it is virtually swallowing landscapes and altering ecosystems. The weed fixes atmospheric nitrogen at a high rate and releases nitric oxide, which is a precursor to ozone. While ozone is beneficial in the stratosphere – building up a layer that protects Earth from high frequency UV radiation – it is a poison in the lower atmosphere, since the highly reactive molecule damages bronchioles and alveoli in the lungs. Jonathan E. Hickman and coworkers from University of Virginia, USA measured nitric oxide emissions from kudzu infested soils and nearby soils without the weed and used the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model to evaluate the effect on regional atmospheric chemistry. It turned out the weed can potentially cause a 35% increase in the number of days with alarming ozone pollution. Since kudzu benefits from the current changes in globale climate, ozone pollution in infested regions will possibly increase in the near future.

Source: Hickman et al (1 June 2010) PNAS 107: 10115-10119

Epigenetics have turned out to be extremely important in gene regulation and specific patterns of DNA methylation and histone methylation or acetylation are characteristics of individual cell types. It has, however, been difficult to isolate and purify a given cell type and consequently little is known about cell type specific chromatin modifications. Working with cells of the Arabidopsis thaliana root epidermis, Roger B. Deal and Steven Henikoff from Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Seattle, USA have now established a general method for isolation of any cell type and purification of their nuclei, and the method is believed to be applicable to any organism that can be transformed. The method, dubbed INTACT (isolation of nuclei tagged in specific cell types), involved transforming plants with two constructs: One conferred constitutive expression of Escherichia coli biotin ligase (BirA) while the other expressed a fusion protein driven by a cell type specific promoter. The fusion protein comprised a nucleic envelope association domain, GFP and BLRP, which acts as a substrate for biotin ligase. Using either the Actin Depolymerizing Factor 8 (ADF8) or the GLABRA2 (GL2) promoter the construct was expressed solely in hair and non-hair cells of the root. In this way nuclei were tissue specifically biotinylated and could easily be purified on streptavidin coated magnetic beads. Nuclei were subsequently used for chromatin profiling, which revealed differences between hair and non-hair root cells in trimethylation of histone H3 at lysines 4 and 27.

Source: Deal & Henikoff (15 June 2010) Developmental Cell 18: 1030-1040