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

Suzanne Gerttula, featured author of Transcriptional and Hormonal Regulation of Gravitropism of Woody Stems in PopulusSuzanne

Current Position: Volunteer Scientist, US Forest Service, Davis CA.

Education: B.S. (1982) Biochemistry, University of Vermont.

Non-scientific Interests: Traveling, oil painting, ceramics, glass art, photography, telemark skiing, poetry, creative writing.

I’ve always been crazy about trees – how they grow, where they live. As a youngster growing up in Portland, Oregon, I developed a great appreciation for the outdoors, science and art. Scientifically, I was fascinated by how the behaviors of organisms might be controlled at the molecular level. After finishing my biochemistry degree in Vermont, I moved to Berkeley where I (audaciously!) hoped to study the neurobiology and behavior of Drosophila with Gerald Rubin. Instead, I studied Drosophila embryonic development with Kathryn Anderson, and established in situ-hybridization and immunolocalization protocols for the toll gene. After developing a terrible allergy to the fruit fly, I decided to make a switch to plants. I have worked since then with pines, brown algae, maize, tomato, tobacco, Arabidopsis and, most recently, poplar. One fascinating aspect of trees is their ability to respond to and withstand the forces of gravity, in some cases creating massive woody bodies that persist for centuries. Studying how trees perceive gravity and ultimately alter their development in response to gravity satisfies my lifelong dream to investigate the biochemical basis of behavior ? in trees! Creating time-lapse videos of our poplar seedlings while they bend in response to gravity, and producing colorful micrographs of the tissues, proteins and enzymes that enable those movements very much engages my artistic skills. I hope our results will provide significant new insights into how trees grow, and ultimately may prove useful in developing more comprehensive views of tree biology that enable the conservation of forests.

Mainak Das Gupta, featured author of Divergence in Patterns of Leaf Growth Polarity Is Associated with the Expression Divergence of miR396 Mainak

Current Position: Post-doctoral fellow, Department of Comparative Development and Genetics (Miltos Tsiantis Group), Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany.

Education: PhD in Biology, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.

Non-scientific Interests: Indian classical music and classical dance; traveling; socializing with friends and partying. My favorite musician is Ustad Vilayat Khan, a great Sitar maestro from India, and my favorite dancers are Bijayini Satpathy and Surupa Sen, the two great Odissi dancers from India.

I joined the lab of Dr. Utpal Nath (Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India) in 2007 as a PhD student after obtaining my Master’s Degree in Zoology (Varanasi, India). I started my PhD with studying the structure and function of TCP4, a plant specific transcription factor in Arabidopsis. However, in my free time, I would go around our lush green campus putting spots over growing leaves with a marker pen and follow the growth patterns out of mere curiosity. That is when I noticed that most leaves do not grow in the way the leaves of most model plants do. The variations in growth patterns became more and more evident as I kept including an increasing number of species to the study. It was very exciting to discover the variations in growth patterns; but, at the same time, it was also a challenge to formalize the findings and present it to the greater scientific community as a tangible story. It was while comparing the patterns of leaf growth that I got deeply interested in the field of evolutionary developmental biology. Therefore, after completing my PhD, I moved to Singapore to study evo-devo with Antonia Monteiro using butterflies as the model organisms. Critical comments from Dr. Monteiro have been really helpful to our manuscript. I am currently studying the evolution of leaf shape using several crucifer species in the lab of Miltos Tsiantis in Germany.

Kenji Nishimura, featured author of Discovery of a Unique Clp Component, ClpF, in Chloroplasts: A Proposed Binary ClpF-ClpS1 Adaptor Complex Functions in Substrate Recognition and Delivery Kenji

Current Position: Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Institute of Plant Science and Resources, Okayama University, Japan.

Education: Ph.D. Biological Science, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Japan.

Non-scientific Interests: Music, movies.

My PhD work was to identify genes required for the accumulation of Rubisco, which is the most abundant protein on earth. The genes that I identified were involved in general translation or ribosome maturation, allowing me to explore interesting aspects of protein synthesis. After completing my PhD, I became interested in protein degradation, the opposing action of protein synthesis. I luckily had the opportunity to join the van Wijk laboratory as a postdoc at Cornell University, where I was working on Clp protease, focusing on how the proteins are recognized for degradation. During that time, a new Clp component, ClpF, was coincidentally discovered, which led us to propose a non-canonical substrate delivery pathway, as described in this report. I then returned to Japan, where I am currently working on a possible mechanism controlling the balance of protein synthesis and degradation in chloroplasts, hoping to further understand how the life of proteins is determined.

Karima Righetti, featured author of Inference of Longevity-Related Genes from a Robust Coexpression Network of Seed Maturation Identifies Regulators Linking Seed Storability to Biotic Defense-Related Pathways Karima

Current Position: Researcher at the Research Institute of Horticulture and Seeds, Angers, France.

Education: M.S. (2006) in Molecular Biology at the University of Roma Tre, Italy; PhD (2010) at the Center for Biomolecular Sciences, Nottingham, UK.

Non-scientific Interests: Scuba diving, kin ball, reading.

I was born in San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina surrounded by the majestic nature of Patagonia. Very early I discovered a great curiosity for nature and when my brother gave me a microscope I understood that I wanted to become a biologist. After completing a MS in Molecular Biology in Rome, I continued my graduate research at Nottingham University working on the bacteria communication system called quorum sensing. As a side project I had the chance to collaborate with the Computer Science department and to interact with plant scientists. It was then that I realized I had a great interest in the area of bioinformatics and that I was attracted by the idea of applying my molecular biology skills to improve crop quality. With this idea in mind I leapt at the opportunity to work in the team of Dr. Julia Buitink, on the understanding of mechanisms involved on the acquisition of seed storability, an important agro-economical trait. The generation of a vast expression dataset and the application of a bioinformatics approach, allowed us to construct a co-expression network describing seed maturation and to contribute to the understanding of seed survival after extended storage.

Katharina vom Dorp, featured author of Phytol from Degradation of Chlorophyll Feeds Biosynthesis of Tocopherols Katharina

Current Position: Ph.D. student at the Institute of Molecular Physiology and Biotechnology of Plants (IMBIO) of the University of Bonn.

Education: M.Sc. (2010) in Plant Sciences at the University of Bonn, and B.Sc. (2008) in Applied Biology at the University of Applied Sciences in Rheinbach, Germany.

Non-scientific Interests: Reading, sports, and traveling.

During my undergraduate and graduate studies, I got involved with the fascinating aspects of plant biology. Plants are the basis for our nutrition, and they provide the essential components of the diet that cannot be produced in the human body. In particular, I learned the power of modern methods of mass spectrometry that can be employed to obtain a deep insight into the world of small molecules. During my Ph.D. project in the group of Peter Dörmann, I started to work on vitamin E synthesis in Arabidopsis. Vitamin E is produced in the chloroplasts. My research focuses on the link between chlorophyll catabolism and tocopherol synthesis. I realized that only very little research was conducted on the fate of phytol after cleavage from chlorophyll. Therefore, I was excited to start a project on the role of genes involved in the remobilization of phytol for tocopherol synthesis. As I had a particular interest in analytics, I was eager to develop the tools required to measure phytol-derived metabolites in the plant. With this set of methods I studied the different routes of phytol metabolism, i.e. synthesis of fatty acid phytyl esters and the phytol phosphorylation pathway. I believe that these tools can be very useful to study the regulation of prenyl metabolism during the synthesis of chlorophyll, tocopherol and many other molecules.

Paul Derbyshire, featured author of Proteomic Analysis of Microtubule Interacting Proteins over the Course of Xylem Tracheary Element Formation in Arabidopsis Paul

Current Position: Proteomics Support Specialist, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK.

Education: BSc Plant Sciences (1998), University of Manchester, UK. PhD Plant cell walls (2002), John Innes Centre/University of East Anglia, UK.

Non-scientific Interests: Football, movies, sleeping.

During my PhD I studied the role of the plant cell wall in cell elongation. After post-docs in several research areas (root development, starch metabolism, leaf patterning) I was delighted to join the Lloyd lab. Here they had established an Arabidopsis cell culture system that could be synchronized to produce xylem tracheary elements. This system lends itself well to modern proteomic and image analysis, which I went on and used to unravel the proteomic flavours that change along the differentiation time course. As well as global proteome changes that occur during this distinct phase of plant development, we were especially interested in proteins that associated with microtubules. Landmark studies in the Lloyd and Fukuda labs had earlier shown the importance of microtubules and their interacting proteins in secondary wall patterning. The work has revealed a large number of proteins with potentially important roles in microtubule-driven tracheary element formation, some of which we have successfully tested and will continue to explore. We hope this work will provide a valuable resource for other labs researching microtubules and cell walls.


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