A newly discovered pathway by which cells protect themselves from a toxic byproduct of photosynthesis may hold important implications for bioenergy sources, human and plant disease, and agricultural yields, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison bacteriologists announced Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Plants turn energy from sunlight into bioenergy through a chemical process called photosynthesis, which also produces oxygen in its breathable form. However, photosynthesis can also generate an alternate form of singlet oxygen, which is a highly reactive and toxic substance that destroys biological molecules. "Weve discovered a pathway that cells use to turn on certain genes and respond to singlet oxygen," says Timothy Donohue, a professor of bacteriology in the universitys College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and lead researcher on the paper. "This finding should make it possible to modify plants and other photosynthetic cells to avoid the toxic effects of singlet oxygen, which could impact agriculture and the treatment of human and plant disease, and aid the effort to create alternative bioenergy sources," Donohue says.
Donohue and his group studied a photosynthetic microbe and identified the cellular pathways it used to sense the presence of singlet oxygen and defend itself from this toxic substance. He notes that the response mechanism is likely highly conserved across species from microbes to plants and humans - and therefore very applicable to other fields of study. For example, too much sunlight can actually be harmful to plants, because the heightened photosynthetic activity also means an increase in singlet oxygen. By modifying plants to enhance the protective pathway, "we could be able to get larger crop yield per photon of light," he says.
Tim Donohue | EurekAlert!
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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.
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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.
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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...
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