SPPS Newsletter December 2012

Index of Issue V 2012

Renew or sign up now. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.

If you haven’t already renewed your SPPS membership for 2013, please do that right now through a safe connection on our homepage. For those who like a good deal or just don’t bother to renew every year, it is now possible to sign up for a 5 year membership for only 100 € – that is 33% off the regular fee. Students get an even better offer and only pay half the price. If you want a little extra you can top up your membership with a print subscription for our highly ranked journal Physiologia Plantarum for just a small premium. Please notice that our membership fees have not changed since last year:

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Don’t forget the XXV SPPS Conference this summer just north of Copenhagen, Denmark. From www.kursuslex.dk

Preparations are now underway for the upcoming SPPS Conference that will update you on all the hottest topics within plant biology. The programme will address how plant biology can contribute to solve some of the global challenges we are facing – e.g. food production and human health – as well as other topics of interest to a broad field of plant biologists. The conference will be held close to the historic castle Kronborg, home to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, at LO-skolen in Elsinore just 50 km north of Copenhagen.

We will keep you informed about the programme and are looking forward to seeing you at the SPPS Conference this summer.

It is time for yet another General Assembly since the foundation of SPPS in Copenhagen 1947. From spps.fi

If you are joining the SPPS Conference this summer in Elsinore, Denmark we will strongly encourage you to participate in the SPPS General Assembly. The General Assembly is the ultimate authority of the Society, so this is the best opportunity to speak up and have your say on what directions SPPS should take in the future. 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

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

Professor emerita Sirkka Kupila-Ahvenniemi has passed away.

The distinguished Finnish plant physiologist, professor emerita Sirkka Kupila-Ahvenniemi died on 4th April 2012 at the age of 85 years. Professor emerita Liisa Kaarina Simola from the University of Helsinki remembers her dear colleague in this obituary.

Sirkka Kupila-Ahvenniemi studied botany and pharmacy at University of Helsinki. A doctoral thesis (1958) on anatomy and cytology of crown gall (plant tumor) caused by infection with Agrobacterium tumefaciens in plant stems marked the beginning of her research career. Dr. Eeva Therman was her eminent supervisor and later a long-term collaborator.

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The SPPS homepage has now been completely renovated. From www.spps.fi

The homepages of SPPS have undergone a complete renovation. As you can see by visiting www.spps.fi, the new layout of the pages is lighter and more readable. The content is now grouped differently and there are some new sections like Education and Events for current news from the Society. The SPPS Newsletter has a section of its own and you can find a complete index for the Newsletter archive. Therefore, if you are missing some information that was on the old pages, you can most likely find it from the articles in the archive.

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Pollen from a Hypericum bush just outside the kitchen door could locate the suspects to the crime scene. From Forensic Science International (2006) 163: 231

Mary had gone to bed early that summer night in Whakatane, a small, coastal town in northeastern New Zealand. She had left the back door unlocked, so her boyfriend could get in when he returned from his late night shift. But two strangers showed up before him, sneaked past a big flowering Hypericum bush and in through the open door. Here they grabbed a purse and a wallet, but upon seeing Mary asleep in the bedroom one of them got into her bed and started fondling her breasts. Mary awoke and her scream frightened the two assailants and sent them off into the night.

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Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences is the largest department at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). From www.umb.no

As indicated by its name, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) is dedicated to life sciences, but moreover the focus is indeed on plant sciences in particular. The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (IPM) is the largest at UMB and it produced no less than 14 PhD doctorates during 2012. The department is organised in seven research groups:

  • Genetics and plant biology
  • Geology
  • Urban horticulture and urban greening
  • Hydrology and limnology
  • Soil
  • Environmental chemistry
  • Plant production

In this brief overview we will focus on the first, Genetics and plant biology, which is also the biggest with a scientific staff of approximately 65. The research group is headed by professor Åsmund Bjørnstad who has a personal interest in pathogen resistance genes and marker assisted breeding. In a paper from 2012 she and her colleagues showed that resistance to Fusarium head blight in wheat is associated with two easily distinguishable phenotypic features, namely anther extrusion and plant height. This makes phenotypic selection for anther extrusion a valuable and simple means of resistance breeding in wheat.

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Eventhough temperatures are on the rise in the Arctic, the local flora might be suffering more frequent cold damage than before. The warmer climate increases the frequency of freeze-thaw-cycles and this changes the insulating snow cover over the vegetations into a much colder sheet of ice. This not only leads to cellular dehydration and cell rupture but due to the lower permeability of gasses, the ice sheet can also impact aerobic respiration and result in cell death – either directly or as a result of accumulation of ethanol and CO2 formed as byproducts from anaerobic respiration. To further address the damaging effects of ice encasement, Catherine Preece and colleagues from University of Sheffield in the UK made a three-year long field manipulation experiment in northern Sweden, where the natural vegetation’s three dominant dwarf shrub species were kept covered in ice. The evergreen Empetrum nigrum generally fared best and was hardly affect by the ice cover, whereas the two Vaccinium species V. vitis-idaea and V. myrtillus were more susceptible. Worst fared V. vitis-idaea with a 57% decrease in flowering and a 165% increase in shoot mortality.

Read full article here: Preece et al (December 2012) Physiologia Plantarum 146: 460

The hawkmoth Manduca sexta pollinates many night-blooming flowers like Agave, Datura, and Mirabilis spp. The moth has an innate liking for their particular scent, which is characterized by oxygenated aromatic compounds such as methyl benzoate, benzyl alcohol and benzaldhyde, and this preference is hard-wired to the neural pathways in the insects antennal lobes. However, Jeffrey Riffell from University of Washington in Seattle, USA found that an additional olfactory channel can be laid down on top of the original one, allowing the hawkmoth to acquire a taste for the distinct smell of other flowers that are present in the local environment. The learning of new scents is controlled by the biological compound octopamine, which directly alters the neurons of the antennal lobes and thereby reprograms the channel of odor preferences. The new neural pathway does, however, not override the innate preference. With two co-existing olfactory channels, the hawkmoth can benefit from the adoption of new, risky markets while still exploiting the abundance of more classic flowers.

Source: Riffell et al (6 December 2012) Science 10.1126/science.1225483

Polyploidy is a common feature of many crops, that often confers or reinforces desirable traits. The distinctive properties that make cotton fibres spinnable are no exception, and this trait apparently emerged from two genetic events that occurred about 60 and 2 million years ago, respectively. The two events led to a genetic complexity illustrated by an 30-36-fold duplication of ancestral genes in Gossypium hirsutum and G. barbadense. The first event was a 5-6-fold ploidy increase, while the second was caused by allopolyploidy that united genomes from several cotton species. Spinnable fibres first evolved in cotton species native to the Old World and was associated with the so called A genome, which was then further elaborated after its merger with transatlantic genomes from the New World. The special properties of cotton fibres with a ribbon-like structure that allows for spinning into yarn rely on at least 15 cellulose synthase genes and 35 cellulose-synthase-like that are required for synthesis of the cell wall matrix polysaccharides that surround cellulose microfibrils.

Source: Paterson et al (20 December 2012) Nature doi:10.1038/nature11798