Ever since the Industrial Revolution, their environment has become more unpredictable and more extreme, at the same time as the world's population is growing. Food will soon need to be grown where it was not grown before, and existing agricultural lands will need to be cultivated with crops that have superior stress adaptation abilities.
"A crucial first step along the path to increasing world food security is a fundamental understanding of how plants respond to extreme changes in their environment. Much data, and some databases, have already been accumulated, documenting plants' responses to their environments, but those resources remain scattered. There is a gap between biologists, whose expertise lies in the study of organisms' behavior, and computer scientists, with the necessary domain knowledge to unify existing data, and make them accessible for study and further development," said Ruth Grene, professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science.
Biologists have long sought "to understand the early responses of higher plants to abiotic stresses such as drought, flooding, heat, cold, ozone, and salt. The key to understanding the responses is signal transduction pathways," said Lenny Heath, a professor of computer science at Virginia Tech.
Signal transduction pathways are collections of interacting cellular components that activate the response of the cell to an external or developmental signal such as a flood.
Heath and his colleagues, Grene, and Andy Pereira of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, have just received a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation to provide the computational support for the biologists' questions. The grant is valued at $ 1,057,336.
"Climate change events are expected to exacerbate the severity and duration of current adverse environmental conditions. Elucidation of the genetic response networks regulating plant dynamic responses to changing environments is daily becoming more of a reality. Bioinformatics approaches are increasingly available to address these questions," said Pereira, the principal investigator on this project.
Currently, the full details of even one stress-signaling pathway remain unclear. "And, although cross-signaling is clearly an important part of adaptive responses, it is unclear to what extent recognition and response pathways for the various abiotic stresses overlap in any one case," Pereira added.
"Our work should empower plant biologists to curate and archive signaling pathways for abiotic stress responses in the Beacon database," Heath explained. Beacon refers to a new systems biology tool that allows the plant biologist to construct and edit signaling pathways. With this information, a curator can integrate current and future data over multiple scales of a cell's organization and across species.
"This project builds upon the community-based, Beacon system to provide computational support for biologists' questions about signaling pathways, thereby empowering those plant biologists to curate and archive signaling pathways for abiotic stress responses in the Beacon database," Heath said. A workshop will be held in fall, 2012, when international experts on particular stresses, and particular plant signaling pathways, will come to Virginia Tech to be trained on the Beacon system.
Their work should allow the computational and statistical means to assess if the activity of one molecule causes a response in a second molecule. Innovative components of the Beacon system allow the possibility of simulating particular environmental conditions in order to identify potential new connections in these networks.
Learn more about the researchers:
Andy Pereira http://wwwdev.vbi.vt.edu/faculty/research_groups/andy_pereira
Ruth Grene http://www.ppws.vt.edu/people/faculty/grene/
Lenwood Heath http://www.cs.vt.edu/user/23
Lynn Nystrom | Newswise Science News
Working the switches for axon branching
26.09.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Diversity in the brain – How millions of neurons become unique
26.09.2018 | Universität Basel
Our brain is a complex network with innumerable connections between cells. Neuronal cells have long thin extensions, so-called axons, which are branched to increase the number of interactions. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have collaborated with researchers from Portugal and France to study cellular branching processes. They demonstrated a novel mechanism that induces branching of microtubules, an intracellular support system. The newly discovered dynamics of microtubules has a key role in neuronal development. The results were recently published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
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The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.
This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.
Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...
Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
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