In research published today scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich(1), report on what plants do during the hours of darkness. During daylight hours plants use the energy from sunlight to power the production of food (sugar) from carbon dioxide and water. This process (photosynthesis) is well understood, but what happens when the sun goes down? The JIC researchers have found a previously unknown sugar transport system within plants and this has, for the first time, shed light on what plants do in the darkness. Their research is published in two related papers in international science journals ‘Science’ and ‘The Plant Journal’(2).
That plants use energy from sunlight to power the production of sugar from carbon dioxide and water is familiar to many people. Photosynthesis is a hugely important process because it sustains most of the food chains on the planet as well as recycling carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Worldwide, plants use solar energy to capture millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide every day. They convert it first to sugar and then to carbohydrate, fat and protein – some of which we harvest for food.
”Photosynthesis is well understood, but our discovery is really exciting because it gives us a new insight into how plants control the use of the sugar that they produce” said Professor Alison Smith (Head of the Metabolic Biology Department and leader of the research team at the JIC). “We already know that sugar is the starting point for all of the processes of plant growth and development, but our work shows how plants ensure that even in the darkness of long winter nights, they have sufficient sugar to meet their needs”.
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22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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