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 Internal Medicine I, Medical University Hospital, Eberhard Karls University Tuebingen, Germany.
Education: PhD in biology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, University Hohenheim, Germany / MD at the Medical University Hospital, Eberhard Karls University Tuebingen, Germany / diploma degree in biology at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Germany.
Non-scientific Interests: Backcountry skiing, scuba-diving, rock climbing, classical cars.
Epigenetics has emerged as an important new field in various scientific disciplines including cell biology and molecular medicine in the past decade. During my PhD thesis, I started working on classical epigentically active compounds that modify the cellular methylation status of the DNA or the acetylation of histone proteins. Of note, the modification of the epigenetic regulation alters the gene expression and has huge implications for the cellular fate. This molecular machinery is very interesting for both basic research and translational research such as cancer therapy. Based on the experience with common epigenetic compounds, our lab at the University Hospital Tuebingen started to focus on the identification and characterization of natural compounds that inhibit the cellular histone deacetylases (HDACs). In cooperation with the Institute of Plant Production and Agroecology in the Tropics and Subtropics at the University of Hohenheim, and the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in T?bingen, we found that two compounds that were known to inhibit the growth of plants act as natural HDAC inhibitors. With additional support of scientists from Germany and France we analyzed their biological function as allelochemicals in detail. Based on their interesting biological properties, both substances are currently evaluated not only as plant toxins but also for their inherent antitumor activities.
Regina G. Belz, featured co-first author of Plants Release Precursors of Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors to Suppress Growth of Competitors
Current Position: Research scientist and lecturer at the University of Hohenheim, Agroecology Unit, Institute of Plant Production and Agroecology in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany.
Education: PhD and habilitation in Weed Science, University of Hohenheim, Weed Science Unit, Institute of Phytomedicine, Germany / diploma degree in agricultural engineering at the University of Hohenheim, Germany.
Non-scientific Interests: Sports, hiking, traveling.
Biochemical based plant/plant interactions, or allelopathy, has been a recognized phenomenon for many years and may be one of the most interesting aspects of plant interference. As part of my study of Agricultural Engineering with specialization in plant protection at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, I first got in touch with the phenomenon of allelopathy during my diploma thesis. Here, I dealt with the release of phytotoxins from cruciferous plant mulches and its use for practical weed control. Since then, I could not get away from this fascinating topic and did my PhD and my habilitation on biochemical plant interference mediated by crop-produced phytotoxins against weeds, and its use for weed control. The fact that the main phytotoxins released by the cereal crops I investigated, the cyclic hydroxamic acids, contain the same functional group as two known inhibitors of mammalian HDACs, triggered an outstanding interdisciplinary approach to unravel a putative HDAC inhibition as a major mode of action in the allelopathic defense of cereal crops. Thanks to the great expertise of collaborators from the Medical University Hospital of the Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, as well as from additional scientists from Germany and France, our group was able to show that plants have the potential to impact gene expression of competing plants via allelopathy for their own benefit. Changing from detrimental effects of plant toxins on other plants to stimulatory effects of phytotoxins at low doses, my current research focus is hormesis in plants and the modeling of such growth-enhancing effects.
Lei Wang, featured co-first author of Strigolactone Signaling in Arabidopsis Regulates Shoot Development by Targeting D53-Like SMXL Repressor Proteins for Ubiquitination and Degradation
Current Position: Graduate student, State Key Laboratory of Plant Genomics and National Center for Plant Gene Research, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.
Education: M.S in Biology at Hebei Normal University, China, and B.S in Biology at Hebei Normal University of Science & Technology, China.
Non-scientific Interests: Playing football, fishing and watching movies.
By the time I was a senior middle school student, I was already very interested in Biology. After graduating from senior middle school, I chose Biology for my major at Hebei Normal University of Science & Technology in China. In the university I achieved success in courses about Biology and I learned some skills for biological experiments. I began my study for my M.S degree at Hebei Normal University in China and focused on heat stress signal transduction. Then I was lucky to join Prof. Jiayang Li’s lab in the State Key Laboratory of Plant Genomics for my Ph.D course at 2011. Prof. Jiayang Li has long interest in the biosynthesis and signaling of strigolactones (SLs) and has alot of foward-looking ideas in this field. My research focuses mainly on the SL signaling pathway in Arabidopsis. SLs are a group of newly identified phytohormone, but how SLs regulate gene transcription is still elusive, especially in Arabidopsis. Our work revealed that D53 like SMXL6/7/8 could interact with TPR2 and display tranciptional repression actvity. These results are exciting for SL transcriptional regulation study.
Bing Wang, featured co-first author of Strigolactone Signaling in Arabidopsis Regulates Shoot Development by Targeting D53-Like SMXL Repressor Proteins for Ubiquitination and Degradation
Current Position: Research Associate, State Key Laboratory of Plant Genomics, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.
Education: Ph.D. in Genetics, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Non-scientific Interests: Climbing mountains, singing, and cooking.
I was born in Tai’an, China, a city famous for Mount Tai. In my childhood, I often climbed Mount Tai with my twin sister and my father. I was attracted by the natural scenery of the mountain such as sunrise, waterfall, pine trees, flowers, and squirrels. I collected seeds of the wild flowers in the autumn and sowed the seeds in the courtyard in the spring. Observing growth of young plants give me lots of fun. After completing a B.S. study from the Shandong Normal University, I was interested in genetics and plant developmental biology. Fortunately, I got the opptunity to learn from Prof. Jiayang Li and investigated the auxin biosynthetic pathway during my Ph. D studies. Then I worked in Prof. Jiayang Li’s lab and further studied the biosynthetic and signaling pathways of auxin and strigolactones (SLs) in Arabidopsis. SLs are a group of newly identified plant hormones that regulate many aspects of plant development. We are interested in the SL signaling pathway in Arabidopsis and found that D53-like SMXLs act with TPR2 to repress transcription. Ubiquitination and degradation of D53-like SMXLs release the repression to induce SL signaling, as described in this report.
Ishwarya Soundappan, featured co-first author of SMAX1-LIKE/D53 Family Members Enable Distinct MAX2-Dependent Responses to Strigolactones and Karrikins in Arabidopsis
Current Position:1st year medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Education: B.B.A (2014) in Finance at University of Georgia.
Non-scientific Interests: Playing piano, yoga, cooking.
I am drawn to laboratory research because of the excitement of discovery and the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of how the world around us works. Despite my background as a finance major with medicine intent, my interest in working with plants, particularly through a genetic approach, arose due to the potential for global impact on crops and the subsequent benefits for humans. I have been fortunate to work with Dr. David Nelson from the beginning of my 3rd year as an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia. In the three years I have worked in the lab, I have not only gained a vast amount of knowledge and appreciation for genetic techniques but have also been able to contribute to gaining a better understanding of the strigolactone and karrikin pathways. As described in this paper, the focus of my project is to help uncover the role of some of the SMAX1-LIKE genes and their effects in the signaling pathways in Arabidopsis. I am excited to share our research and look forward to getting one step closer to elucidating these important genetic pathways.
Tom Bennett, featured co-first author of SMAX1-LIKE/D53 Family Members Enable Distinct MAX2-Dependent Responses to Strigolactones and Karrikins in Arabidopsis
Current Position: Research associate, Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University.
Education: PhD in Biology, University of York; BSc Biology, University of Leeds.
Non-scientific Interests: Football (soccer), cricket, walking, pies, ancient & medieval history.
I am originally from the town of small town of Marple, on the edge of England’s Peak District. From an early age my parents encouraged me to appreciate the wonders of nature and as a result I have always enjoyed the outdoors and the picturesque places of the world. Deciding to become a plant scientist came much later, but seems an obvious choice in hindsight. I took my undergraduate degree at Leeds where I became deeply fascinated by developmental patterning, particularly with regard to plant development. Moving steadily eastwards, I then moved to York for my PhD, to work with Ottoline Leyser on the control of shoot branching in Arabidopsis. The search for a perfect developmental patterning system then took me across the North Sea, to Utrecht in the Netherlands, where I worked on root cap development with Ben Scheres. During my time in Utrecht, I developed a strong interest in the evolution of development, and subsequently moved to Cambridge to work on hormonal control of development in the moss Physcomitrella patens with Jill Harrison. An opportunity then arose to move the newly built Sainsbury Laboratory, where I have been working on PIN-mediated auxin transport, strigolactone signalling, and the developmental interface between these two signalling mechanisms. In the future I plan to research the mechanisms by which plants make complex decisions about architectural responses to the environment, and hopefully move to somewhere with more hills than Cambridge!
Lee E. Vandivier, featured first author of Chemical Modifications Mark Alternatively Spliced and Uncapped Messenger RNAs in Arabidopsis
Current Position: PhD candidate in the Cell and Molecular Biology graduate group at the University of Pennsylvania. Dissertation work in the lab of Dr. Brian Gregory, Department of Biology.
Education: BA (2011) in Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Non-scientific Interests: Creative writing and lay scientific writing, history and sociology of science, hiking, camping, cooking.
RNA is a multilayered text, and for me, it is one that is endlessly fascinating to read. In addition to containing a primary sequence of nucleotides, RNAs are shaped into intricate secondary structures, punctuated with RNA binding proteins, and marked with a variety of edits and chemical modifications. My broad interest is to use RNA deep sequencing-based approaches to survey these additional layers of information across whole transcriptomes. Throughout my PhD work, I have worked with both experimental and computational methods developed in the Gregory Lab, including Double-stranded/Single-stranded RNA sequencing (dsRNA/ssRNA-seq) and High Throughput Annotation of Modified Ribonucleotides (HAMR), to characterize the regulatory impact of messenger RNA secondary structure and chemical modifications in Arabidopsis thaliana. In addition to uncovering global trends, we have also identified and begun to test specific modes of regulation such as mRNA modification-induced alternative splicing.