SPPS Newsletter December 2015

Index of Issue III 2015

Photo: Wilhelm Joys Andersen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oslo city centre. Photo: Wilhelm Joys Andersen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The 9th SPPS PhD Student Conference will be coming soon! This time the conference will be held on June 21–23, 2016, in Oslo, Norway. Prepare yourself to meet distinguished guest speakers and international PhD students working in plant sciences!

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Arabidopsis CRISPR-Cas9 mutant

Some of the seeds from this Arabidopsis plant will be considered to be GMOs, others not. Photo: Stefan Jansson

The Swedish Board of Agriculture has, after questions from researchers in Umeå and Uppsala in Sweden, confirmed the interpretation that some plants in which the genome has been edited using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology do not fall under the European GMO definition. The case brought forward by the researchers and the interpretation by the Board of Agriculture are covered in a news article and an editorial in a recent issue of Nature (15 December 2015).

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SPPS-ECPISixteen early career principal investigators (ECPIs) from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden got together on November 22 and 23 in Sigtuna, Sweden, for the 2nd SPPS ECPI meeting. In addition to discussing their research on photoauxotrophic organisms covering topics as varied as plant physiology, molecular biology, ecophysiology and bioenergy, the participants focused on creating an ECPI committee that is aimed at providing a discussion and interaction forum, operating under the umbrella of the SPPS. Emphasis in the presentations rested on future goals, ideas and opportunities for collaborations. The attending ECPIs also reflected on the current state of funding for research and strategies for how Nordic and European funding agencies could be lobbied to announce calls consistent with the goals of the SPPS and ECPI group agenda.

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The congress venue, Aula Magna, Stockholm University. Photo: Holger Ellgaard (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015, the 26th Congress of the SPPS, took place in Stockholm 9–13 August 2015 and offered attendants five days of interesting scientific talks, mixed with a number of social events. The congress was well attended and the Swedish capital greeted the participants with beautiful summer weather.

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New SPPS council

The newly elected SPPS council, in the sun outside the congress hall. From left to right: Per Gardeström, Stefan Jansson, Carl Gunnar Fossdal, Tom Hamborg Nielsen, and Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi. Totte Niittylä and Cornelia Spetea Wiklund were not present.

At the SPPS General Assembly on August 12, 2015, the previous council stepped down and was thanked for their services to the society. A new council was elected, with Professor Stefan Jansson, Umeå University, Sweden, as new president. Stefan Jansson is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and his research covers many aspects of plant biology, with focus on tree genomics, autumn senescence, and photosynthetic light harvesting. He is also active in the debate about the role of gene technology in society and he is a well-known voice in popular science in Sweden.

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Physiologia Plantarum 155:3, November 2015

Physiologia Plantarum 155:3, November 2015

The increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels, is the driving force behind global warming. Many studies have predicted wide-ranging environmental effects of the changing climate. For example, global agricultural production could be greatly affected and the rapid changes signify critical uncertainty over food production. In a recent paper in Physiologia Plantarum, researchers from Spain and the United Kingdom show that a combination of increased carbon dioxide concentration and elevated temperature negatively affects photosynthetic performance in wheat, one of the world’s most important crops. In the paper by Jauregui et al. physiological, metabolic and genomic analyses show that increased temperature has important implications in N assimilation and transport in plants. Inhibited leaf nitrate assimilation is reflected in a strong inhibition of the amino acid content and conditioning of the leaf soluble protein content, and negatively affects leaf N status, which all contributes to the photosynthetic acclimation of the plants. The authors of the paper also propose that the reduction in transpiration rates could give rise to reductions in mineral transport under elevated temperature and carbon dioxide concentration.

Read the article here: Jauregui et al. (November 2015) Physiologia Plantarum 155(3): 338–354

Man working in a ricefield. Photo: USAID Bangladesh

Man working in a ricefield. Photo: USAID Bangladesh

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming. A major source of methane from agriculture is rice production. Microorganisms in waterlogged rice paddies take up organic matter from the rice plants’ root systems and release methane to the atmosphere. To tackle this problem a group of researchers in China, Sweden, and USA created a transgenic rice variety, which contains a transcription factor gene from barley, SUSIBA2. The transgenic plants have higher aboveground biomass and starch content, resulting from a shift in carbon flux from roots to shoots. Field trials show that cultivation of the SUSIBA2 rice generates less methane, possibly by reduced leakage of organic matter from roots. The authors propose that the transgenic rice variety offers a sustainable means of providing increased starch content for food production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from rice cultivation.

Source: Su et al. (30 July 2015) Nature 523: 602–606

P4-ATPases, or flippases, are enzymes that are present in the plasma membranes of eukaryotes. These enzymes act by moving phospholipids from one side of the membrane to the other, while using energy in the form of ATP. This transport is thought to be involved in vesicle formation in secretory and endocytic pathways. Plants are able to produce lipids and are not thought to have systems for lipid uptake from the environment. However, a group of researchers in Denmark, USA, and Germany have now shown that Arabidopsis thaliana has a flippase – ALA10 – that transports exogenous phospholipids across plasma membranes into cells. Poulsen et al. show that expression of ALA10 is high in epidermal cells of the root tip and in stomatal guard cells. The authors of the study propose that the unexpected lipid transport system may have a role in the import of lysophosphatidylcholine, a signalling lipid involved in root development and stomatal control.

Source: Poulsen et al. (27 Jul 2015) Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8649