Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Campus Vienna Biocenter – Thriving Plant Research

13.02.2006


At the Campus Vienna Biocenter research has begun into environmental stress-induced changes to the plant genome supported by the Austrian genome program (GEN-AU). A EUR 1.3 million budget has been allocated to the three-year project. Two task groups at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences and five at the Campus will investigate how extreme environmental conditions impact on the plant genome. It is also hoped that evidence will be found to support the hypothesis that inheritable environmental adaptations of living organisms do not occur randomly. Confirmation of this would revolutionise current thinking about heredity.

But surely everyone knows mutations happen by chance, don’t they? Researchers at the Campus Vienna Biocenter are not so certain, and this is precisely the question a three-year project there will now address. A total of 17 scientists will be looking into the effects of environmental stress on the genome of the model plant Arabidopsis with financial support from the Austrian genome program (GEN-AU), a program funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. They will also investigate whether stress reactions may contribute to further changes in the genome. If that were the case it would show that mutations do not simply arise randomly, but are also influenced by the plant metabolism – and it would be time to re-write the textbooks.

Prof. Heribert Hirt of the newly established Dept. of Plant Molecular Biology at the University of Vienna commented: "In the early 19th century it was widely believed that the adaptation of living organisms to their environment was a systematic process, and could be passed on to offspring. Darwin and modern genetics overturned these assumptions. According to them, inheritable adaptations are random. A few of them are beneficial, and are naturally selected. It is now known that random adaptations are caused by mutations. However for some time now there has been evidence that mutations are by no means as random as was thought. In lower organisms such as bacteria, in particular, it has been shown that mechanisms leading to an increased incidence of mutations are activated by certain types of stress."



The settled life style of higher organisms, and plants in particular, means that they have to resort to a wide range of reactions to adapt to environmental stress. The consortium of scientists in Vienna will now attempt to clarify whether changes in the plant genome can also arise from environmental stress. Such alterations include methylations of parts of the DNA or of associated proteins. These occasional chemical structure modifications regulate gene expression and precipitate environmental adaptations. But permanent genome changes such as base pair changes, or the multiplication of a single gene or whole chromosomes are also stress reactions. If it were demonstrated that these permanent, and hence inheritable changes are a specific reaction to environmental stress, this would mean that the plant influenced the environmental adaptations of future generations — a state of affairs at odds with current scientific teaching.

Prof. Hirt is well aware of the project’s wider implications. As he put it: "Plants are increasingly coming under threat from global climate change. In our project we will therefore subject plants to precisely the kinds of stressful conditions that are caused by climate change, including extreme temperatures, drought and increased UV radiation. We suspect that this abiotic stress affects the genome, but we know little about what these effects mean for species development. The aim of our project is to understand the impacts and to be able to use them in the future."

Till C. Jelitto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.univie.ac.at
http://www.prd.at

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors

22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent

22.01.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks Wissenschaft & Forschung
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>