Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, January 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 December’s issue of The Plant Cell.

Jeffrey P. Simpson, featured first author of A novel pathway for triacylglycerol biosynthesis is responsible for the accumulation of massive quantities of glycerolipids in the surface wax of bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) fruit

Current Position: Post-doctoral Research Associate, Biochemistry Department, Purdue University.simpson

Education: B.S. (2007) in Biological Sciences and M.S. (2009) in Plant Agriculture from University of Guelph and Ph.D. (2015) in Plant Biology from Michigan State University.

Non-scientific Interests: Golf, watching sports, cooking, traveling.

The diversity of plant derived chemicals is fascinating. Of particular interest to me are those tissues which act as chemical factories capable of synthesizing extremely large amounts of unique and valuable compounds. Following my undergraduate and master’s training in plant science at the University of Guelph, I joined Dr. John Ohlrogge’s lab at Michigan State University to pursue a doctoral degree in plant biochemistry. I was initially tasked with exploring how plants could synthesize increased quantities of lipids in vegetative tissues with the applied goal of increasing the energy value of a plant. Recent discoveries in surface lipid (i.e. waxes, cutin, suberin) biosynthesis raised the question of whether these pathways are capable of synthesizing and also secreting valuable and/or enhanced levels of lipids. While all plants produce surface lipids, we discovered that Bayberry fruit surface wax is much different because it contains exclusively soluble glycerolipids, notably triacylglycerol, and accumulates to levels many fold higher than other plants. In fact, its wax layer is so massive that it has been harvested for hundreds of years to make holiday candles. Fortunately, a Bayberry plant was growing outside the lab just waiting to be studied. As described in the paper, we demonstrated that Bayberry surface triacylglycerol is synthesized by an unusual pathway for this molecule and which shares similarities to the synthesis of cutin. This research may provide insights into new ways to produce and secrete lipids in plants.

Yagnesh Nagarajan, featured first author of Na+-dependent anion transport by a barley efflux protein revealed through an integrative platform

Current Position: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Hypoxia Laboratory, University of Adelaide, Australia.nagarajan

Education: Ph.D. in Protein Structural and Functional Laboratory of Professor Maria Hrmova at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide (2011-2014); M.Sc. in Biotechnology, Flinders University of South Australia (2008-2010); B.Tech degree in Biotechnology, SASTRA University, India (2004-2008).

Non-scientific Interests: Playing and watching cricket, and I am a heartfelt follower of soccer; my favorite soccer teams are Real Madrid (Spain) and Arsenal (England).

I came to Australia to enhance my knowledge and practical skills in biotechnology, and was primarily interested in biofuels. But later during my M.Sc. degree, I undertook a summer scholarship at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide, in the laboratory of Professor Maria Hrmova. I got fascinated by research that has been carried out in her laboratory. I got very much interested in how proteins fundamentally work. My research has mainly focused on membrane transport proteins involved in tolerance to high levels of boron in the soil, and my role was to characterize these proteins, as described in our recent research on ‘Na+-dependent anion permeation by a barley efflux transporter Bot1’. This work was multidisciplinary and several research groups, each specializing in a different field, participated. It was fascinating and inspiring to find out how these diverse laboratories, could work so effectively together in answering key fundamental questions in biology. The journey during this process has instilled me with confidence and changed me on a personal level.

Naohiko Ohama, featured first author of The transcriptional cascade in the heat stress response of Arabidopsis is strictly regulated at the expression levels of transcription factors

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Plant Molecular Physiology, Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, The University of Tokyo.Ohama

Education: PhD: Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, The University of Tokyo.

Non-scientific Interests: Reading science fiction, walking.

When I was a junior high school student, my favorite magazine was a science magazine to which my parents subscribed. The magazine introduced me to many interesting scientific topics about physics, engineering, medicine, environmental issues and so on. In particular, biotechnology was very attractive to me because understanding and manipulating biological phenomena seemed to be the effective way to solve problems in medical science and agriculture. I decided to be a biologist and studied biology at the University of Tokyo. During my studies, I found that I had a great interest in how organisms survive stressful environments. I joined Dr. Kazuko Yamaguchi-Shinozaki’s lab at the University of Tokyo. Since then, I have studied the regulation mechanism of the heat stress response (HSR) in plants. This research showed a complicated and strict regulation of the HSR in Arabidopsis. It is fun for me to learn and discover the sophisticated systems enabling plants to survive in severe environments.

 Philipp Gasch, featured first author of Redundant ERF-VII transcription factors bind an evolutionarily-conserved cis-motif to regulate hypoxia-responsive gene expression in Arabidopsis

Current Position: Medical Representative at Quintiles Germany GmbH in Bremen.Gasch

Education: PhD, Department of Plant Physiology, University Bayreuth, Germany.

Non-scientific Interests: Being a proud father, baking and cooking, athletic sports.

At the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen/Germany I studied biology to satisfy my interest in the complexity of life. I soon found both a scientific topic and an organism which drew my attention: Signal transduction in Arabidopsis thaliana. I investigated the mechanism underlying nuclear translocation of light-activated phytochrome A during my M.Sc. research. Fascinated by complex yet elegant pathways that transmit abiotic signals into plant nuclei, I searched for new research opportunities in this field. My PhD project started in the lab of Angelika Mustroph in 2011. In the same year, the discovery of an elusive plant oxygen sensing mechanism was published which described the low oxygen-dependent stabilization and nuclear translocation of a group of transcription factors resulting in differential gene expression. At that time, the nature of the cis-regulatory part of this mechanism was only hypothesized, giving me the great opportunity to add important knowledge about a major plant signaling pathway.



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