“Characterization of parasitic plant mutants”, accessible research for undergraduate readers

Learning to read a scientific paper is an important skill for undergraduate students to acquire, but selecting a suitable paper to read with undergraduates can be challenging (see this for example). The chosen research article should be accessible (meaning not too much specialized terminology or methodology), interesting, and meaningful. A new Plant Physiology paper by … Read more

New in Plant Physiology: Ovary Abortion Under Drought Stress

This Research in Focus is written by science writer Peter Minorsky (ASPB and Mercy College) who writes the monthly On the Inside column for Plant Physiology. This summary describes a paper available online now for publication in the February 2016 issue. Grain abortion enables a few viable seeds to complete development under drought conditions, but … Read more

Newest Teaching Tool: Light-Dependent Reactions of Photosynthesis

We’re delighted to announce that the latest Teaching Tool in Plant Biology article “Light-Dependent Reactions of Photosynthesis” is published. This article was written by me (Mary Williams), as well Ru Zhong (Carnegie Institute of Science) and Johnna Roose (Louisiana State University). Ru and Johnna are both educators and researchers who specialize in the study of … Read more

Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, November 2015

Recently, we’ve been profiling first authors of Plant Cell papers that are selected for In Brief summaries. Here are the first-author profiles from November’s issue of The Plant Cell. Sascha Venturelli, featured co-first author of Plants Release Precursors of Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors to Suppress Growth of Competitors Current Position: Senior researcher at the Department of … Read more

Dealing with arsenic – an investigation with undergraduates

Guest post from Sonja Dunbar, PhD student at the University of Cambridge Plants need nutrients and they have a lot of different ways to acquire them from the soil, as the 2nd year undergraduate students I teach at the University of Cambridge recently discovered in lectures. One thing our lecture courses try to emphasise at … Read more

Meet the litter trappers

Plants that do the unexpected or that don’t conform to stereotype command attention and serve as portals to the diversity of the plant kingdom. Litter-trapping plants have an unusual and interesting strategy for obtaining nutrients. Zona and Christenhusz (2015), writing in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, describe plants that have evolved specialized adaptations … Read more

Industrial chemistry, prepare to be biohacked*

*Note that we use the term biohacking as it has been used since 1988 to refer to DIY biology (Strange, 1988). More recently biohacking has been used also to refer to strategies to enhance the human body through wearable technology and nutritional supplements. Imagine a typical industrial process – say the production of gasoline or … Read more

Optimizing Crops for Biocontrol of Pests and Disease

This week we feature an article published by Stenberg et al in Trends in Plant Science that describes the potential benefits of optimizing crops for biocontrol of pests. It is difficult to estimate the true costs of herbivore damage to crop plants, but it is clearly in the billions of dollars; much more when pesticide … Read more

When a Tree Falls in the Woods: The Gravitropic Response in Poplar

This week’s Research in Focus is reprinted from an In Brief published by Science Editor Nancy Hofmann in The Plant Cell, which summarizes an article newly published by Gerttula et al. This study examines the formation of tension wood, a specialized tissue that forms on the upper side of a fallen woody angiosperm stem that … Read more

“The Birth of a Black Rice Gene”: Empirical evidence for Emperor’s Rice

This week we feature an article that will be interesting to different people for different reasons. The main thrust is to uncover the genetic basis for the black rice trait, which the authors trace through an elegant and comprehensive analysis and by sidestepping a few red herrings. For those who are engaged by the broader … Read more

CRISPR here, CRISPR there, CRISPR CRISPR everywhere

Scientists have long dreamed of the ability to make targeted genomic changes: precise and specific alterations in an organism’s DNA to affect its phenotype. Recently, this dream has become a reality through the discovery and engineering of nucleases that can be targeted to precise genomic locations. Double-strand breaks produced by targeted nucleases can induce mutations … Read more

Evolution and function of strigolactone / karrikin receptors

Karrikins are small molecules found in smoke that promote seed germination and have been associated with the activation of seeds following fire (Nelson et al., 2012). Strigolactones are structurally similar small molecules that act as endogenous hormones and as secreted signals that promote the germination of parasitic plants and branching responses in mycrorrhizal fungi (Brewer … Read more