Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plant Biology Meets Up with Computational Wizardry

01.06.2011
Over time, plants have evolved to adapt to a constantly changing, often hostile, environment. Unfortunately, they are facing a new and difficult challenge ahead.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, their environment has become more unpredictable and more extreme, at the same time as the world's population is growing. Food will soon need to be grown where it was not grown before, and existing agricultural lands will need to be cultivated with crops that have superior stress adaptation abilities.

"A crucial first step along the path to increasing world food security is a fundamental understanding of how plants respond to extreme changes in their environment. Much data, and some databases, have already been accumulated, documenting plants' responses to their environments, but those resources remain scattered. There is a gap between biologists, whose expertise lies in the study of organisms' behavior, and computer scientists, with the necessary domain knowledge to unify existing data, and make them accessible for study and further development," said Ruth Grene, professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science.

Biologists have long sought "to understand the early responses of higher plants to abiotic stresses such as drought, flooding, heat, cold, ozone, and salt. The key to understanding the responses is signal transduction pathways," said Lenny Heath, a professor of computer science at Virginia Tech.

Signal transduction pathways are collections of interacting cellular components that activate the response of the cell to an external or developmental signal such as a flood.

Heath and his colleagues, Grene, and Andy Pereira of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, have just received a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation to provide the computational support for the biologists' questions. The grant is valued at $ 1,057,336.

"Climate change events are expected to exacerbate the severity and duration of current adverse environmental conditions. Elucidation of the genetic response networks regulating plant dynamic responses to changing environments is daily becoming more of a reality. Bioinformatics approaches are increasingly available to address these questions," said Pereira, the principal investigator on this project.

Currently, the full details of even one stress-signaling pathway remain unclear. "And, although cross-signaling is clearly an important part of adaptive responses, it is unclear to what extent recognition and response pathways for the various abiotic stresses overlap in any one case," Pereira added.

"Our work should empower plant biologists to curate and archive signaling pathways for abiotic stress responses in the Beacon database," Heath explained. Beacon refers to a new systems biology tool that allows the plant biologist to construct and edit signaling pathways. With this information, a curator can integrate current and future data over multiple scales of a cell's organization and across species.

"This project builds upon the community-based, Beacon system to provide computational support for biologists' questions about signaling pathways, thereby empowering those plant biologists to curate and archive signaling pathways for abiotic stress responses in the Beacon database," Heath said. A workshop will be held in fall, 2012, when international experts on particular stresses, and particular plant signaling pathways, will come to Virginia Tech to be trained on the Beacon system.

Their work should allow the computational and statistical means to assess if the activity of one molecule causes a response in a second molecule. Innovative components of the Beacon system allow the possibility of simulating particular environmental conditions in order to identify potential new connections in these networks.

Learn more about the researchers:

Andy Pereira http://wwwdev.vbi.vt.edu/faculty/research_groups/andy_pereira

Ruth Grene http://www.ppws.vt.edu/people/faculty/grene/

Lenwood Heath http://www.cs.vt.edu/user/23

Lynn Nystrom | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.vt.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Show me your leaves - Health check for urban trees
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation
12.12.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>