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SPPS Newsletter September 2011
Index of Issue III 2011
- Detailed report from the SPPS Congress
- SPPS General Assembly
- Presenting the new SPPS Council
- EPSO presents: Fascination of Plants Day
- Short report from the SPPS Congress in Stavanger
- Organic food: Is it really good for you?
- Scandinavian research institute: Cell, Molecular Biology and Genomics Group, NTNU, Norway
- DNA methylation is a marker of flowering
- Two hormones control the Venus flytrap
- Orchids adapt to bees – not vice versa
A detailed report from the XXIV SPPS Congress in Stavanger has been prepared by Natalie von der Lehr, who attended the event from 20-25 August 2011. The report is split up in several sections that you can read by following the links below.
You can also read a short summary about the congress here.
On the second last day of the SPPS Congress in Stavanger, Norway, 35 participants retracted for the General Assembly. This is normally held biannually in connection to the congress, but as SPPS hosted and arranged the FESPB Congress in 2008, the usual schedule was temporarily interrupted, and accordingly this General Assembly was the first since 2008 and the previous one in 2005. President Jaakko Kangasjärvi opened the meeting and after a few formal procedures he went on to present the activity report from 2008-2011, which was followed by reports from the Journal Responsible (Lisbeth Jonsson) and the auditors.
President Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Graduated in plant physiology at the University of Minnesota, USA. 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.
The European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO) will arrange a special attribute to plants with the Fascination of Plants Day that is scheduled for 18 May 2012. The event will be a Europe-wide initiative to bring back understanding and appreciation of plant science and plant research to the public. All participating plant science and research institutions – including plant breeding companies, farmers associations etc. – are invited to contribute with open lab days, public discussions or press conferences with selected scientists, farmers, plant breeders, environmentalists, ecologists etc.
In the end of August more than 150 researchers from 24 nations gathered in Stavanger, Norway, to share their latest research regarding plant biology and physiology. The first plenary session by Mike Bushell from the company Syngenta pointed out the need of understanding more about plants in order to be able to supply the increasing world population with food, water and energy.
The many different approaches by which this can be achieved were then presented during the congress, both in detail and in a bigger perspective. Topics included photosynthesis, large scale genomics and proteomics, cell and organelle biology, cell wall biosynthesis and degradation and pathogen defence. Taken together the data presented complemented each other well and pointed towards the power and possibilities of a better understanding of plant biology.
With an estimated global market of $57 billion and a market share of approximately 4%, organic food is highly valued among consumers worldwide. Even facing a financial crisis and a price premium of 10-40%, consumption of organic food show an annual growth of 8%, which is about the double of conventionally produced food. The figures vary considerably between products and countries – e.g. the organic share of fruits and vegetables are almost an order of magnitude higher than on meats, and the same relative difference holds true between individual EU member states – but the general picture is clear: organic is hot!
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Where Norway starts to narrow, at 63° north, is the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Located in Trondheim with a population of about 165,000, the university’s 20,000 students make a significant contribution to the city life. Despite its name, studies at NTNU are not limited to science and technology, so if you are into arts, humanities, music, social sciences, management or economics you need not go any further. Plant biology also has its place here and most research in this field is led by professor Atle Bones.
Induction of flowering in azalea (Rhododendron spp.) is associated with changes in DNA methylation levels and these epigenetic alterations seem to be markers of floral bud development. This was shown by Maria Jesus Canal from Universidad de Oviedo in Spain in an experiment where manipulations of photoperiod and temperature were used to promote flowering. Within days after the shift from long days to short days there was a substantial decrease in overall DNA methylation, eventually amounting to almost 50%. Subsequently, however, methylation increased sharply and climbed to a level approximately 25% above the initial value. This pattern of fluctuations in the DNA methylation level followed floral development and was consistent between different cultivars and plants grown under various flower induction conditions. The authors suggest that measurements of DNA methylation can be used as a marker of flower development in commercial production of azalea and probably also other ornamentals.
Read full article here: Meijon et al (September 2011) Physiologia Plantarum 143: 82
When the carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap, catches a prey within a fraction of a second and starts to digest it, the action is controlled by jasmonates and abscisic acid (ABA). Triggering a touch-sensitive hair in the prey-catching lobes elicits a set of action potentials and causes the trap to close almost instantly. Jasmonates are then synthesized and induce secretion of digestive enzymes from glands in the closed trap that now functions as an external stomach. However, ABA suppresses the touch-induced trap closure. Rainer Hedrich from University Würzburg in Germany and his co-authors were abe to show that after spraying the plant with ABA, stimulation of the trigger hairs still induced the action potentials but did not elicit trap closure. On the other hand, application of jasmonates initiated the digestive process without causing the trap to close. Accordingly, two separate pathways – controlled by ABA and jasmonates – are responsible for prey capture and digestion, respectively.
It is generally believed that organisms in mutually beneficial relationships coevolve and influence the form and function of each other. But this seems not to be the case for orchids and the bees that pollinate them, although the insects are dependent on the orchid’s fragrance for their courtship displays. Santiago Ramirez from Harvard University in Cambridge, USA studied the pollen attached to more than 7,000 bees and analyzed the branchpoints in family trees of both organisms in matching pairs. The analysis showed that bees developed a taste for certain fragrances approximately 12 years earlier than the orchids started to produce them. The authors suggest that the bees originally adapted to use fragrances available from non-orchid sources, and that the orchids only much later adapted to exploit this preexisting behavioral preference. Among the numerous chemical substances preferred by the orchid-pollinating bees, only 8% were present in orchid floral scents and just 2% were unique to orchids.