Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Making plant cells work like miniature factories

15.09.2005


Ames Laboratory researchers explore the new frontier of metabolomics

The biotech field of genomics gives scientists genetic roadmaps to link certain genes to diseases. The subsequent study of proteins produced by certain genes spawned the field of proteomics.

Now, a group of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University will use $1.02 million in DOE start-up funding to begin understanding the chemical processes that take place within the cells of plants. This new field, called metabolomics, could result in harnessing plants to efficiently produce biomass for energy production, chemicals and materials for industry or pharmaceuticals, and untold thousands of other uses.



“We know a lot about the genetic make-up of many plants, but we know very little about the chemical changes that take place within plant cells that eventually produce sugars, fibers or waxes,” said Ed Yeung, program director of Chemical and Biological Sciences at Ames Lab and principal investigator on the project. “If we can understand metabolism, then ideally, all the materials a plant produces can be controlled.”

The project, “Mass Spectrometric Imaging of Plant Metabolites,” combines the analytical chemistry expertise of Ames Laboratory with the strength of ISU’s Plant Sciences Institute. Yeung, who is also a distinguished professor of chemistry at ISU, is internationally recognized for his work in developing separation and detection technologies, having won four R&D 100 awards.

Also working on the project are Sam Houk, an Ames Lab senior chemist who specializes in identifying trace elements using inductively couple plasma-mass spectrometry, and associate scientist and ISU chemistry professor Ethan Badman, who specializes in mass spectrometry and gas-phase methods of analysis for biological molecules. Rounding out the team is Basil Nikolau, Director of the Plant Sciences Institute’s Center for Designer Crops and a specialist in biochemistry and functional genomics of plant metabolism.

Funding from the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences Division of the DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences provides $340,000 for operation and equipment this year and another $680,000 in 2006. Additional money is expected in 2007 and could continue if the program receives good marks during a peer review scheduled for 2008.
Before they can study the chemical makeup within plant cells, the team must construct new analytical instruments capable of identifying molecules in such minute quantities.

“Developing the instrumentation is a large part of the proposal and we’re building a special, high-resolution mass spectrometer,” Yeung said, “because there’s nothing available commercially that meets our needs.” He added that the equipment will be housed in the Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory on the ISU campus.

Mass spectrometry works by measuring the mass of individual ions – molecules that have been electrically charged. Plant material is ionized into a gas, sorted in an analyzer chamber according to the mass-to-charge ratios, and collected by an ion detector. The detector converts ion flux into a proportional electrical current. Finally, the magnitude of the electrical signals is recorded and plotted as a mass spectrum.

The ability to sort and detect these ions at cellular-scale quantities is where the team hopes to fine-tune the instrumentation.

Once the equipment is ready, the team will look at the chemical content in the cells of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant that is widely used as a model organism in plant biology. Arabidopsis is a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family, which includes cultivated species such as cabbage and radish.

“Arabidopsis is not a major crop like corn and soybeans,” Yeung said, “but because so much is already known about it genetically, we can hopefully begin to draw correlations between the chemical and genetic makeup. We hope that such fundamental research will be applicable to other plants as well.”

Ames Laboratory is operated for the Department of Energy by Iowa State University. The Lab conducts research into various areas of national concern, including energy resources, high-speed computer design, environmental cleanup and restoration, and the synthesis and study of new materials.

Kerry Gibson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.external.ameslab.gov
http://www.ameslab.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

05.12.2016 | Information Technology

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>