Plant Biology 2014 Major Symposium I: Abiotic Stress Response

The first day of the ASPB meeting, 2014 included the major symposium on abiotic stress control in plants, presenting insights on the broad range of abiotic stress that impacts plants from extreme atmospheric conditions and availability of micronutrients; with discussions on recent experimental approaches in laboratory and fields to overcome those hurdles.

Dr. Michael F. Thomashow, the first speaker of the session talked a bit about his work on CBF pathway and cold acclimation of plants, the process by which plants increase their freezing tolerance in response to low non freezing temperature. Dr. Thomashow is acting as a director of MSU-DOE plant research laboratory at Michigan State University. CBF cold-response pathway is a highly conserved regulatory network comprising the CBF genes and the CBF regulons (CBF target genes) that impairs freezing tolerance. Expression of these regulons leads to increased levels of sugars and proteins with cryoprotective properties that can contribute to an increase in plant freezing tolerance. He also discussed about a new line of investigation studying photosynthetic acclimation to low temperature. When Arabidopsis and other chilling tolerant plants are exposed to low temperature, the rate of photosynthesis initially drops. In addition, the photosynthetic efficiency of leaves developed at low temperature is much greater than those developed at warm temperature. He talked about the photoperiod regulation of the CBF pathway and how that is regulated by PhyB under long and short period of days.

The second speaker of the session was Dr. Donald Ort, Robert Emerson Professor in Plant Biology and Crop Sciences Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, USDA/ARS Departments of Plant Biology and Crop Science, from the University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois. He discussed about the gradual CO2 elevation, the elevated heat waves and effects. Human activities are altering the composition of our atmosphere (CO2 and O3), affecting the Earth’s climate system (elevated temperature and water deficits). High temperature is a cause of yield gap and can act directly by inhibiting photosynthetic processors. Dr. Ort discussed how his group is investigating the effects of atmospheric change on photosynthesis and canopy energy balance, as well as the interaction of increased atmospheric CO2 and drought.

After a refreshing coffee break Dr. Steve Howell, from Plant Sciences Institute, Iowa State University, spoke about their work on the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) and how that can protect plants from stress. UPR acts as an alarm system when the plant senses harsh conditions. Different environmental stresses, such as heat stress and salt stress can activate different transcription factors and his group focus specially on factors responsible for untethering the stress transducers from the Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in response to stress, how they are transported from the ER to the Golgi apparatus, how they are proteolytically processed and relocated to the nucleus and participate in the formation of transcription complexes to activate target genes.

The session was concluded with an excellent speech from Dr. Mary Lou Guerinot, Ronald and Deborah Harris Professor and Associate Director, Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, Dartmouth College Hanover. Her goal is to ultimately understand the functional connections between genes, proteins, metabolites and mineral ions. Out of more than 100000 EMS mutants they identified one mutant which is iron tolerant. As a result of the study her group hypothesized that plants might store irons in their vacuoles like yeast. As part of a multi-investigator project, Guerinot is using ICP-MS [inductively coupled spectroscopy-mass spectroscopy] nutrient, ionomics and trace element profiling as a tool to

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