Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tiny plant poised to yield big payoffs in environment and energy

28.10.2002


Using a phase-contrast microscope, the plant Chlamydomonas is magnified about 1000 times.
Credit: Yoshiki Nishimura/Boyce Thompson Institute
Copyright: © Cornell University


With the genomes of humans and several insects, animals and crop plants mapped or sequenced, biologists are turning their attention to single-celled algae no thicker than a human hair. Among the possible payoffs: crops requiring less fertilizer, a source of renewable energy and a new source for novel proteins.

The algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii , already are an important biological model for genetics research. Now, the complete genome of the plant’s chloroplast has been sequenced by scientists at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research located on the campus of Cornell University. The chloroplast is the area of the plant that harvests light energy. Details of the sequencing (that is, determining the base sequence of each of the ordered DNA fragments) appear in the latest issue of the journal The Plant Cell (November 2002).

The complete chloroplast genome sequence, says David Stern, a biologist and vice president for research at BTI, a not-for-profit research organization, has made it possible to test the response of Chlamydomonas (pronounced CLAMMY-doe-moan-us) to various environmental stresses, work that is reported in an accompanying article in The Plant Cell . In addition, the organism’s nuclear genome is being sequenced by the Joint Genome Institute, a unit of the Department of Energy.



One type of environmental stress being explored, says Stern (who also is an adjunct professor of plant biology at Cornell) is that of response to phosphates. The developed world, he says, puts too much phosphorous fertilizer on plants and crops. "It turns out that Chlamydomonas shares many of the responses to phosphate stress with crop plants. Working with Chlamydomonas, we can quickly test ways to improve tolerance or adaptation, perhaps leading to ways of engineering crop plants for the same purpose," he says.

If fertilizer use were decreased, phosphorous runoff into creeks, streams and lakes might be diminished. Phosphate leaching is a prime cause of algae blooms in lakes and ponds around agricultural areas.

The algae might also one day be a source of hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel. At present, hydrogen used in a type of battery called a fuel cell (still in its infancy for powering cars and boats) is extracted from natural gas -- a nonrenewable resource. A group led by Anastasios Melis, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, is exploring the use of Chlamydomonas as a renewable hydrogen source.

Additional applications include using the Chlamydomonas chloroplast as a "bioreactor" to create, or "over-express," a variety of novel proteins for agricultural, industrial and biomedical purposes, says Jason Lilly, a BTI postdoctoral researcher.

Chlamydomonas plants have been useful to science for a century in both agriculture and energy research. In nature, the organisms are widely present in fresh and brackish water, all kinds of soils, underwater thermal vents and even under the Antarctic ice shelf. One species of Chlamydomonas sports a red pigment -- as protection from solar damage -- and is found in alpine or arctic regions. These red algae create a phenomenon referred to as "red snow." The organism’s global dispersion demonstrates the algae’s adaptive nature, says Stern.

"Chlamydomonas is a relatively simple organism and easy to work with," says Stern. "One drawback, however, is that despite its long history as a laboratory organism, the scientific community has lacked so-called genomics resources. This long-awaited part of the genetic toolbox promises to be a boon for scientists."

Completing the Chlamydomonas chloroplast genome sequence is part of a larger Chlamydomonas Genomic Initiative, spearheaded by Arthur Grossman of Stanford University, working at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Stern’s chloroplast genome studies, a project that began three years ago, have been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

In addition to Stern and Lilly, the other authors and researchers are: Jude E. Maul, BTI laboratory researcher; Liying Cui, Claude W. dePamphilis and Webb Miller of Pennsylvania State University; and Elizabeth Harris of Duke University. The articles, "Chlamydomonas reinhardtii plastid chromosome: Islands of genes in a sea of repeats" and "The Chlamydomonas reinhardtii organellar genomes respond transcriptionally and post-transcriptionally to abiotic stimuli," are scheduled to appear in the November printed issue and the online edition of The Plant Cell .

Blaine P. Friedlander Jr. | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://bti.cornell.edu/bti2/chlamyweb/
http://www.biology.duke.edu/chlamy_genome/index.html
http://bahama.jgi-psf.org/prod/bin/chlamy/home.chlamy.cgi

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond
21.11.2017 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht The main switch
21.11.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>