SPPS Newsletter June 2011

Index of Issue II 2011

The beautiful city of Stavanger sets the scene for the SPPS Congress. From www.spps2011.no

As the deadline for registration has now closed, the organizing committee can sum up the number of scientists that will go to Stavanger 21-25 August and take part in the XXIV SPPS Congress. A total of 157 participants from 24 countries have signed up and all together they will give 37 oral presentations and display 130 posters. This years congress will thereby be much more ‘international’ than the last ordinary SPPS Congress in 2005 where only 16 nations were represented. The overall number of participants is on par with previous congresses, and it is an almost ideal number that allows for both an intimate atmosphere that stimulates contacts and discussions as well as an international outreach where you have plenty of opportunity to meet other scientists that share your research interests.

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The old council is up for election. Illustration by Gorm Palmgren.

If you are among the 157 participants at the upcoming congress in Stavanger, SPPS would like to encourage you to take part in the General Assembly that takes place on Wednesday 24th. In addition to all the regular items (including discharge and election of the 7 Council members), the present Council will propose a reformation of the SPPS membership rules, so you will be able to sign up for a 5 year membership fee option in addition to the normal annual membership fee. 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 do not hesitate to contact the election committee or SPPS secretariat at spps@helsinki.fi.

While a transgene only contains a genes coding sequence (red, cDNA), a cisgene contains the full genomic sequence including introns (green) and all regulatory sequences (grey). From www.cancerwatch.org

Cisgenesis is a new concept that aims to combine the best of two worlds: the speed and specificity of genetic modification with the safety and familiarity of traditional breeding. Though the methodology is very similar to commonly used transformation techniques, cisgenesis incorporates some important principles from conventional breeding that distinguishes it from normal genetic modification. Conventional breeding and genetic modification share the same fundamental purpose, namely to transfer a gene encoding a desirable trait from one organism to another. While they use very different methods to transfer the gene, one might argue that this is basically irrelevant for consumers and for the safety evaluation, if the outcome is the same in either case. This is, however, not the case, since the genes that are actually transferred are very different entities whose nature depend on the method used.

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Research Centre Flakkebjerg is part of University of Aarhus, though its geographical location is 215 km away from the city. Photo by Gorm Palmgren

After a major reorganization of the Danish universities in 2007, Research Centre Flakkebjerg became part of Aarhus University. The research centre, named after its location at a small village in the Western part of Zealand, used to belong to the governmental research institution Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (DIAS), but with the new organisational model this institution was laid down. Changes are not over, however, and it has already been decided that within five years all activities should move to the university’s premises in Aarhus, which are now 215 km away.

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Salinity, drought, temperature, chemical toxicity, wind and gravity are among the many abiotic stresses that challenge trees and other plants. With the ability to transform a growing number of tree species including poplar (Populus), Eucalyptus, birch (Betula), pine (Pinus) and spruce (Picea), scientists are now making progress to elucidate the complex cascades of gene expression in abiotic stress responses, in order to use this knowledge for generation of trees that can better cope with the environmental changes we are experiencing. In a minireview, Yuriko Osakabe from University of Tokyo examines the current efforts and progress. Poplar and eucalyptus are by far the most used experimental trees and popular traits include resistance to drought, salt and cold. In addition, genetic manipulation of lignin content and composition can not only increase the commercial value of woody biomass but also improve resistance to water stress.

Read full article here: Osakabe et al (June 2011) Physiologia Plantarum 142: 105

A fast immune response is essential to fight pathogens and stay fit but you must also be able to shut down the defense reaction to prevent it from running amok. The innate immune system of plants use receptors to detect molecular signatures of bacteria, like e.g. FLAGELLIN-SENSING 2 (FLS2). When this plasma membrane-localized kinase detects bacterial flagellin it binds to another receptor, BAK1, and initiates a cascade reaction that activates the defense response. However, the receptor complex also activates two ubiquitin ligases, PUB12 and PUB13, that subsequently binds to FLS2 and promotes its degradation. In this was, flagellin-activated FLS2 not only turns on the immune response but also turns it off by promoting self-degradation. This was demonstrated by Dongping Lu and co-workers from Texas A&M University, USA. Using transgenic Arabidopsis they also showed that pub12 and pub13 mutants showed elevated levels of H2O2 production and callose deposition and were more resistant to pathogens.

Source: Lu et al (17 June 2011) Science 332: 1439

The semidwarf gene (semi-dwarf1, sd1) was a major player in the “green revolution” that swept across the world around 50 years ago and increased global crop production tremendously. But selection for a null allele of the gene which leads to lower gibberellin biosynthesis, shorter stems and greater grain output apparently started many thousand years ago when ancient humans began to domesticate wild rice (Oryza rufipogon). Makoto Matsuoka from Nagoya University in Japan studied the genetic diversity between the wild rice and its two domesticated relatives O. sativa ssp. japonica and indica. The analyses revealed a set of fixed mutations in sd1 and a low nucleotide diversity around the gene only in O. sativa ssp. japonica. This suggests that the “green revolution” gene was subject to artificial selection during early rice domestication and that ancient humans apparently selected for shorter and higher yielding plants.

Source: Asano et al (6 June 2011) PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.1019490108