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Briggs takes to the molecular level Darwin’s findings on plants sensing the direction of light


US National Academy of Sciences member and Stanford Professor Winslow R. Briggs will speak at the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) annual meeting July 24, 2004 in Orlando, Florida about findings in his studies of how plants sense the direction of light.

Most casual observers have likely noticed that seedlings on a windowsill will grow toward the light. This phenomenon, known as phototropism, is a manifestation of a sensitive system plants have for detecting light. This light sensing system guides seedlings through the soil and has profound influences on their development during the critical stage of seedling establishment and later as the leaves adapt to changes in the light environment.

Briggs’s research group has discovered the two-member family of protein molecules that serves as the detector and decoder of the blue photons on which the seedling cues to determine the direction of light. The molecule, known as phototropin, is now being intensively studied because of its unique properties by chemists and biophysicists as well as plant biologists.

Professor Briggs began experimenting on how plants detect the direction and intensity of light in the 1950’s, but he certainly was not the first to be drawn to this fascinating example of sensory biology. For example, Charles Darwin and his son were drawn to the phenomenon and performed some classic experiments that paved the way for further studies, including Briggs’ successful approaches. The Darwins could not have imagined that the topic would in the 21st century be studied at the molecular level as it is now.

Professor Briggs will present his group’s latest findings on the topic at the ASPB Annual meeting during the Major Symposium on Tropisms 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 24, 2004 in Coronado Ballrooms L-T at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort & Convention Center.

Brian Hyps | EurekAlert!
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