journal club

Knowing when it’s wintertime.

Winter time can be hard for plants, and many species that live in particularly cold climates do their best to ‘opt out’. When autumn comes, leaf shedding deciduous species effectively shut it all down. They reabsorb as many nutrients as they can from their leaves, throw the remaining orange-red husks to the ground, and hunker down for the cold times.

Evergreen trees, like pines and spruces, aren’t quite as dramatic. But they still need to find ways to protect themselves and their most valuable assets from the killer cold.… Read more

CTRL-C, CTRL-V: Plants plagiarize to make new mitochondrial proteins

You’ll probably remember this one from grade school biology. Mitochondria are ‘the powerhouse of the cell’. Which basically means that mitochondria take sugars and break them down to make energy.

But those little powerhouses were once so much more- they were an entire organisms. A very long time ago, a certain type of proteobacteria was engulfed by a single celled host organism, but that organism decided that instead of digesting the proteobacteria, it would hold onto it. With time, the proteobacteria evolved into the modern mitochondria, a process that involved most of its very own bacterial genome being stolen away, and sequestered in the nucleus of the host.… Read more

P-bodies prepare plants for growth in the light

As anyone living in a poorly lit apartment (or country- heyo Germany!) will tell you, plants are pretty fond of light. Nonetheless, for many plants, life begins in darkness. Seeds often germinate under several centimetres of soil, so seedlings spend the first moments of their life struggling to escape the black. Once they do, the success of finally meeting the light comes with its own challenge: a need for the plantling to discard the tools it used to emerge from seed and soil, and swiftly develop a skill for sunbathing.… Read more

Mushroom Diet: The Orchids who give up Photosynthesis

When we think of plants we tend to make certain assumptions. Green, for starters. Photosynthesising, for sure. But some plants have decided to throw it all away, and act like the animals do. Meet Epipactis helleborine, an orchid species that sometimes lives entirely on a diet of mushrooms.
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Finding fields of ‘plenty’

As a scientist who occasionally has to remember the names of genes and proteins, I’m always happy when other researchers come up with something both cute and logical.

Enter the protein ‘PLENTY’. … Read more

Spitting in the eye of plant defences

Unlike animals, plants can’t make a run for it when attacked by predators: they have to stand and fight. And fight they do, with a variety of defences designed to prevent themselves from becoming food. But of course, in the evolutionary tug-of-war of nature, the predators themselves have developed specialised weapons to surmount these blockades.

And for whitefly, the secret’s in the spit!… Read more

mRNA- going the (long) distance

Inside billions of cells all around us, DNA quietly makes messenger RNA (mRNA), which in turn acts as the template for protein synthesis.

In this equation, mRNA is the boring middle man. Unlike DNA, its lifetime is short, and it doesn’t get passed to the next generation. It also doesn’t get the protein life- catalyzing metabolic reactions, capturing the light from the sun, or transporting products across cell membranes.

Sometimes in our lives, we need a thrilling tale of an ordinary guy making a break for freedom….… Read more