SPPS Newsletter March 2011

Index of Issue I 2011

Registration is now open for the XXIV SPPS Congress in Stavanger, Norway. From www.spps2011.no

You can now register for the upcoming SPPS Congress and you must do so before 1 May in order to participate. This is also the deadline for submission of abstracts and for applications for travel grants. The congress is hosted by Centre for Organelle Research at University of Stavanger and will take place during 21-25 August 2011. You can register right now by clicking here.

Almost regardless of your special focus, the scientific programme will offer you an opportunity to share your interests with colleagues who enjoy similar topics. Experts in fields ranging from synthetic biology over phytochrome signalling to plant diversity will take you through 14 sessions covering all aspects of plant physiology. Lean back and listen to their invited talks and plenary lectures or share with them your own results in an oral presentation or during the daily poster sessions.

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How do you keep up the enthusiasm of your students? Share your ideas with colleagues at the congress’ education session. From bti.cornell.edu

During the XXIV SPPS Congress in Stavanger you will have the opportunity to engage in discussions on not only plant science but also plant science education. The Congress Organizers and the Education Committee encourage and welcome all members to submit contributions in these fields! If you have any new and inspiring ideas for how to communicate plant science to your students, please share them with your colleagues. So don’t hesitate to send in an abstract for an oral or poster presentation during the education session which will be held on Wednesday 24th at 14:00!

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Former SPPS President Jan K. Schjørring at the General Assembly 2005. Photo by Tom Hamborg Nielsen.

The SPPS General Assembly will take place 24 August 2011 during the SPPS Congress in Stavanger, Norway. If you attend the congress, you are strongly encouraged to show up! According to the SPPS by-laws, the Ordinary General Assembly is the ultimate authority of the Society, so we would like as many members as possible to take part and express their opinions. The agenda will include the regular items:

  • Report about the Society’s preceding activities from the Council
  • News about Physiologia Plantarum from the Journal Responsible
  • Financial report from the Auditors
  • Discharge and election of the 7 Council members, including those with special responsibilities as President, Vice President, Secretary General, Treasurer and Journal Responsible

In addition, the present Council will propose a reformation of the SPPS membership fees. The proposal will introduce a 5 year membership fee option in addition to the normal annual membership fee. This will be available for both regular and student members and will hopefully ease the administration burden. Another interesting topic will be the election of the first regular members of the newly established SPPS Education Committee.

If you have any suggestions to the agenda, please don’t hesitate to contact the election committee or SPPS secretariat at spps@helsinki.fi.

Botany web-site PlantingScience.org won a prestigious prize from the journal Science. From plantingscience.org

Plants are often neglected in class rooms where textbook coverage is biased towards animals, and teachers tend to make reference to more familiar animals rather than lesser known plants. This is a matter of concern for the whole society since plants are not only essential to our everyday lives but also considered to be an important part of the solutions to the major climate, food, fuel, and environmental challenges we are facing.

To rebuild botanical knowledge, SPPS recently took initiative to establish an Education Committee that will be formally launched on the forthcoming General Assembly (see Call for contributions to the Education Session and Education Committee established) and several other organizations worldwide have taken the challenge. Such an effort was recently acknowledged by the journal Science when it awarded botany web-site PlantingScience.org the SPORE prize (Science Prize for Online Resources in Education). The web-site is an online learning community, where school classrooms can interact with over 100 graduate students that have committed themselves as scientific mentors. The basic idea is that the web-site will bring together students, their teacher and a mentor, who can help them formulate, design and evaluate experiments. In addition, the students post their results and reports to an online forum so its easy to exchange ideas and information.

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University of Eastern Finland is a merger of the two former universities in Kuopio and Joensuu. From www.uef.fi

University of Eastern Finland is the youngest university in the country and only came to existence in January 2010 after a merger of the two former universities in Kuopio and Joensuu. About 200 km separate the two campuses in each of the two mid-eastern cities: Joensuu close to the Russian border and Kuopio inland at the same latitude. With 14,000 students and an annual budget of €200 million, the university is the third or fourth biggest in Finland, depending on your scale of measurement.

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Since floral quality is the most important trait in ornamental plant industry it is very desirable to be able to control and predict floral capacity. Plant growth regulators – and in particular growth retarding gibberellin (GA) inhibitors – are widely used to promote flowering, so Isabel Feito from the Agri-food Research and Development Service (SERIDA) and co-workers from Universidad de Oviedo, both in Asturias, Spain, wanted to identify markers that could indicate how azalea (Rhododendron sp) plants reacted to the treatment. Application of GA inhibitors during the vegetative phase affected the levels of polyamines, GAs and cytokinins throughout subsequent bud development. Notable changes in the corresponding level of global DNA methylation was also observed and DNA methylation is known to be part of the epigenetic control of flower development. During the reorganization phase in the fall, where global DNA demythylation is generally observed, treatment with GA inhibitors led to substantial further demethylation, while methylation levels during flowering in late winter was higher in treated plants than in untreated controls. Based on these results, Isabel Feito suggests that levels of DNA methylation, polyamines, GAs and cytokinins can be used as predictive markers of floral capacity in azalea.

Read full article here: Monica Meijon et al (March 2011) Physiologia Plantarum 141: 276-288

Salmon conservation plans can have a major effect on the surrounding ecosystem, according to a new study by Morgan Hocking and John Reynolds from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. The researchers looked at 50 watersheds in the remote Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia’s central coast in Canada and compared salmon density with plant diversity and most abundant species close to the riversides. When salmons die, their carcasses provide nutrients for the plants, so very salmon rich rivers lead to nutrient rich watersheds that turn out to have low plant diversity dominated by a few nutrient craving species like salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis). On the other hand, false azalea (Maianthemum dilatatum) thrives and a higher plant diversity exists on the river banks when salmon density is low. This effect on plant diversity was independent of distance from the stream for up to at least 35 meters. The effect of salmon on plant diversity also depended on other characteristics of the habitat. If western redcedar (Thuja plicata) was the dominant tree, azalea communities would be favored, while red alder (Alnus rubra) promoted salmonberry communities almost irrespective of salmon density. Steep or flat river banks also influenced the effect of salmon on plant diversity. The authors conclude that small, less nutrient-rich streams will be more prone to declines in salmon number, while larger, shallow-sloped watersheds dominated by red alder will be more resilient.

Source: Hocking & Reynolds (25 March 2011) Science 331: 1609

Biofuels based on carbohydrates from plants might soon get competition from bacterial proteins. Plant based carbohydrates are a limited ressource so the abundance of proteins from byproducts of industrial processes and protein rich microalgae can turn out to be a valuable contribution of raw materials for biofuel production. So far, however, this appraoch has been complicated by the difficulties of deaminating protein hydrolysates. Now James Liao and colleagues from University of California, Los Angeles overcome this problem by changing metabolic pathways in E. coli. After introduction of three exogenous transamination and deamination cycles – including blocking ammonia re-uptake – amino acids are deaminated to various keto acids, which are then used to produce fuels, chemicals and pharmaceutical intermediates. Using hydrolysates from yeast, bacteria or algae as protein source, the engineered E. coli were able to convert up to 18% of the available amino acids into alcohols suitable for biofuels.

Source: Huo et al (6 March 2011) Nature Biotechnology doi:10.1038/nbt.1789