A Fresh Look at the Role of Auxin in PIN Trafficking

This Commentary, written by Emily Larson, is from the October issue of Plant Physiology. The spatial and temporal accumulation of auxins promotes and regulates polarized, gravitropic, and phototropic growth in plants. The proteins involved in initiating and maintaining the auxin gradients have been studied and remain active areas of research in the hormonal regulation of … Read moreA Fresh Look at the Role of Auxin in PIN Trafficking

Pushing back the dawn of life

Our understandings of the forces that have shaped Earth and the forces that have shaped life on Earth have common roots. Charles Darwin was famously inspired by the work of early geologists such as Charles Lyell, who proposed that Earth was subject to slow but gradual change. This idea recurs in Darwin’s insights about evolution … Read morePushing back the dawn of life

Chemical Inhibition of Lignification

Chemical genetics is a powerful complement to conventional genetics. Rather than knocking out gene functions, protein (or other) functions can be perturbed through the addition of small molecules. One advantage is that several related proteins can be affected at the same time, avoiding the difficulties that come from genetic redundancy. Another is that treatment regimes … Read moreChemical Inhibition of Lignification

Molecular Insights into the Evolution of Floral Heads in the Asteraceae

When is a flower not a flower? When it’s an inflorescence (cue laughter). Plants in the family Asteraceae produce inflorescences that look like single flowers, but are actually made up of hundreds of individual flowers. In many species, their are two types of flowers. The ray flowers (also known as ray florets) produce an elongated … Read moreMolecular Insights into the Evolution of Floral Heads in the Asteraceae

PlantBio16: Summary of President’s Symposium on Specialized Metabolism

The final major symposium of the Plant Biology 2016 conference was organized by ASPB President Richard Dixon and covered various aspects of specialized metabolism in plants (note that the term specialized metabolism has largely supplanted the older term secondary metabolism, which carries with it an implication that it is not as important as primary metabolism; … Read morePlantBio16: Summary of President’s Symposium on Specialized Metabolism

Advancing crop transformation in the era of genome editing

You are probably familiar with the process of making a transgenic plant; gene identification, gene introduction into a plant cell via bombardment or Agrobacterium tumefaciens, selection of transformed tissue, and plant regeneration (as shown in the diagram from Teaching Tools in Plant Biology). Many of you have probably carried out the process, at least in … Read moreAdvancing crop transformation in the era of genome editing

The Ethylene Receptor of a Cyanobacterium

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 by Lacey and Binder, to be published in the  July 2016 issue. The authors examine a putative ethylene receptor in cyanobacteria; this protein had … Read moreThe Ethylene Receptor of a Cyanobacterium

An innate immunity pathway in moss

Arabidopsis thaliana has been an excellent model for the dissection of molecular plant-microbe interactions, including responses to pathogens. Studies in Arabidopsis have identified core components of signaling pathways involved in sensing and responding to pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), which including chitin (a structural carbohydrate of fungal cell walls) and flagellin (an abundant bacterial protein). … Read moreAn innate immunity pathway in moss

Getting the most out of RNA-seq data with expVIP (Expression Visualization and Integration Platform)

Transcriptomic data reveal how an organism or tissue expresses its genes (through transcription into mRNA) at any moment in time, and these data are extremely valuable when trying to describe plant growth, development and environmental response. For example, roots can be starved for the nutrient phosphate and the time course and pattern of gene expression … Read moreGetting the most out of RNA-seq data with expVIP (Expression Visualization and Integration Platform)

Traditional medicine: Velvet bean seed’s prophylactic protection from snake venom toxins

Snakebites kill more than 100,000 people annually, making snakes the second deadliest animals (after mosquitos), with many fold that many people suffering permanent disabilities from snake venom. Most of the victims are in Africa, Asia and Latin America, often in countries with poor access to medical resources. Snake venoms are complex and contain various toxins … Read moreTraditional medicine: Velvet bean seed’s prophylactic protection from snake venom toxins

Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, May 2016

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 the May issue of The Plant Cell. Xunliang Liu, featured first author of The role of LORELEI in pollen tube reception at the interface of the synergid cell and pollen tube requires … Read moreRecognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, May 2016

In Brief: Xanthine Dehydrogenase in ROS Metabolism

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  Ma et al. This study explores the dual and opposing roles of the enzyme xanthine dehydrogenase in modulation of ROS metabolism during defense responses in Arabidopsis.  Xanthine … Read moreIn Brief: Xanthine Dehydrogenase in ROS Metabolism

Phytochromes in diatoms: Sensing far-red light in the deep-blue sea

This week’s Research in Focus is reprinted from an In Brief published by Science Editor Jennifer Mach in The Plant Cell, which summarizes an article newly published by  Fortunato et al. This study explores the role of diatom phytochromes in sensing red and far-red light. In land plants, phytochromes sense red and far-red light and … Read morePhytochromes in diatoms: Sensing far-red light in the deep-blue sea

Jurassic Park? No, Precambrian Rubisco

In a study reminiscent of Jurassic Park, scientists have resurrected an extinct enzyme and watched it respond to today’s world. Rubisco is much older than dinosaurs; it is an ancient enzyme, billions of years old, and predates the origin of eukaryotes. Rubisco is found in all photosynthetic organisms, be they bacteria, algae or plant, as … Read moreJurassic Park? No, Precambrian Rubisco

Identification of a distinct, cutin-related pathway for biosynthesis of triacylglycerol lipids in bayberry

This week’s Research in Focus is reprinted from an In Brief published by Science Editor Jennifer Mach in The Plant Cell, which summarizes an article newly published by Simpson and Ohlrogge. This study uses biochemical, morphological, and transcriptomic methods to examine an unusual surface wax produced by bayberry fruits, and reveals a cutin-related biosynthetic pathway … Read moreIdentification of a distinct, cutin-related pathway for biosynthesis of triacylglycerol lipids in bayberry

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

Best of Plants 2015: Headline makers

BREAKTHROUGHS AND EVENTS CRISPR Science magazine named CRISPR the 2015 breakthrough of the year. Although the application of CRISPR-mediated genome editing in plants dates back a few years, the rate of its use has been growing rapidly. Searching PubMed for CRISPR shows an exponential growth in citation numbers. There’s no doubt that this technology provides … Read moreBest of Plants 2015: Headline makers

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 moreMeet the litter trappers

Metabolism: The final frontier

Metabolism is a widely-used term. It is used colloquially, as in, “My metabolism slowed down once I hit 40,” a usage that considers metabolism as a black box and focuses on its energetic inputs and outputs. Or, there’s the single-reaction view of metabolism, as in, “He doesn’t metabolize alcohol very well.” This view underpins the … Read moreMetabolism: The final frontier

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 moreIndustrial chemistry, prepare to be biohacked*