European Plant Science Retreat 2019:

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Published on: July 15, 2019

University of Nottingham, July 8th-10th 2019

By Sophie Mogg, University of Manchester. @Mini_Moggy

The European Plant Science Retreat is an annual event hosted by PhD students for PhD students.

The fact that this event was orchestrated by my own peers was simply amazing and a feat not to be sniffed at.  As any PhD student knows, sometimes walking into those big society-led conferences can be daunting and even more so when you want to approach those in your field.

However, at the EPSR, it was a level playing field allowing for a more easy-going approach to networking – especially as those we were talking to could be potential collaborators in the near future.

The Organising Team!

The three days of proudly presented research was arranged in a series of talks and poster sessions to open the floor to like-minded students. Somewhat unusually only a few hours over the whole conference was dedicated to more experienced keynote speakers. This for me is what made the conference. Both new and more experienced PhD students were able to interact, share ideas and advice and feel free to ask questions that otherwise might not have been asked in a more ‘serious’ setting.

The keynote speakers themselves made quite the contribution, sharing with us their journey from being PhD students to their current revered positions! It was important for us to learn that each journey was DIFFERENT. What stuck with me was that there was no necessity to jump ship to another country, or even publish a single paper, in order to gain a post doc position.

Therefore as long as you persevere, remained passionate and show your worth, many doors will remain open for your future! It was great to hear their love for science in their voices as they told their tales.

Speaking with others at the conference, my experience wasn’t unique and I didn’t hear a single negative comment, no doubt owing to the great organisation and planning done by the EPSR2019 team.

Sadly, this was my first and only European Plant Science Retreat, but I hope that the tradition continues for many years, allowing students from across Europe to practice their networking skills, present their research and have a all round great experience at a conference designed especially for them.

Jason and Marty, part of the EPSR2019 team, offered words of wisdom for the 2020 organising team. They highlighted that although it may seem like a giant undertaking, especially in terms of sourcing funding from sponsors, that the entire team had improved their organisation and team-work skill sets, giving them invaluable experience that they will undoubtedly make use of in the future.

Finally they advised to keep it light and enjoy it! Because how often do you get to organise a conference?

Meeting attendees in the University of Nottingham Millennium Garden

Meeting Report from ICAR2019

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Published on: July 11, 2019

Gina Garzón Martínez, Aberystwyth University

Four days full of knowledge, innovative research, interesting culture this is what summarizes my time at the ICAR2019, Wuhan, China.

Thanks to the Gatsby foundation and GARNet, I had the opportunity to attend the ICAR2019 conference in Wuhan, China. The meeting was hosted by the Huazhong Agricultural University-a partnership University which I also managed to visit during my stay in Wuhan.

Mornings at ICAR2019 started with a plenary sessions leading by scientists from Asia, Australia, USA and Europe who delighted us with their latest work in Arabidopsis. In particular, I found interesting a plenary session called “From Models to Crops”, where Barry Pogson from Australia showed us the importance of translational genetics. As an example, he showed us drought stress regulators discovered in Arabidopsis that also play a role in a range of crop plants such as wheat.

Barry Pogson gave a fantastic talk!

Every afternoon, there were concurrent sessions and more interesting talks given by PI researchers and early career scientists from all around the world. Of particular interest to me were the talks on the use of Arabidopsis to elucidate biotic and abiotic interactions. As an example, Lin Li from Fudan University gave a good talk about how the transcription factor PHY7 is involved in shade avoidance response when plants compete with their neighbours. Also, Ling Li from Mississippi State University shared with us her work in a starch gene with great potential to improve protein and disease resistance in other crops such as rice, soybean and corn, using innovative strategies.

Poster Session

At the end of the day, there was a poster session and a range of different workshops. I really enjoyed the workshop called “Communicating your science to the broader community” organized by Isabel Mendoza (Global Plant Council) and including Geraint Parry (GARNet) and Mary Williams (ASPB). This workshop gave me ideas of how I can increase the impact of my work by using social media and how to share my work not only to the scientific community but also to the regular public. Thanks to this workshop I gained more encouragement to be more active in social media, considering the importance of sharing my work with others at this stage of my PhD.

I really encourage all PhD students to not miss this kind of opportunities of networking, learning, sharing your work, along with having a cultural experience and making friends from other parts of the world. Next year, ICAR2020 will be held in the USA, followed by Belfast, UK in 2021, so I already recommend you to book some time off in your calendar and prepare for another productive and exciting week of science!

Gina with her poster

GARNet Research Roundup: July 5th 2019

This edition of the GARNet research roundup begins with a study from the University Leicester that investigates the rate of selection of genes expressed in Arabidopsis pollen.

The second and third papers focus on the function of members of the AP2 family of transcription factors. Sarah McKim’s lab in Dundee characterizes the role of APETALA2 during barley stem elongation whilst the other paper investigates the function of the Arabidopsis PUCHI gene and includes co-authors from the University of Nottingham.

The fourth paper is from Lars Ostergaard’s lab at the John Innes Centre and demonstrates the benefit of using models to understand developmental processes in crop plants. The next paper from the University of Glasgow investigates the plant response to low fluence rates of UV-B light.

The penultimate paper features authors from Oxford Brookes University and characterizes a novel LINC-KASH protein in maize whilst the final paper is from the University of Cambridge and investigates the novel function of two members of DUF579 family in methylation of glucuronic acid residues.

Harrison MC, Mallon EB, Twell D, Hammond RL (2019) Deleterious mutation accumulation in Arabidopsis thaliana pollen genes: a role for a recent relaxation of selection. Genome Biol Evol. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evz127

Open Access

This research from Hammond and Twell lab’s at the University of Leicester uses Arabidopsis to investigate the hypothesis that pollen genes evolve faster than sporophytic genes. This study is challenging to perform in Arabidopsis as for the past million years the plant has been self-compatible, which causes reduction in pollen competition, increased homozygosity and a dilution of masking in diploid expressed, sporophytic genes. This study has two main findings: firstly prior to becoming self-compatible pollen genes evolved faster than sporophytic genes. Secondly, since becoming self-compatible selection has relaxed causing higher polymorphism levels and a higher build-up of deleterious mutations.

Patil V, McDermott HI, McAllister T, Cummins M, Silva JC, Mollison E, Meikle R, Morris J, Hedley PE, Waugh R, Dockter C, Hansson M, McKim SM (2019) APETALA2 control of barley internode elongation. Development. doi: 10.1242/dev.170373

Open Access

Vrushali Patil leads his study from the lab of current GARNet committee member Sarah McKim at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. They show that the APETALA2 (AP2) transcription factor is necessary for stem elongation in Barley. In addition they demonstrate that AP2 expression is controlled by the activity of the microRNA mi172 as well as jasmonate signaling.

Trinh DC, Lavenus J, Goh T, Boutté Y, Drogue Q, Vaissayre V, Tellier F, Lucas M, Voß U, Gantet P, Faure JD, Dussert S, Fukaki H, Bennett MJ, Laplaze L, Guyomarc’h S (2019) PUCHI regulates very long chain fatty acid biosynthesis during lateral root and callus formation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1906300116

Julien Lavenus, Ute Voß and Malcolm Bennett from University of Nottingham are co-authors on this French-led study that investigates the mechanism by which the AP2 family transcription factor PUCHI controls lateral root development. By performing a transcriptional analysis of developing lateral root cells they show that genes involved in very long chain fatty acid (VLCFA) biosynthesis enzymes are induced in a PUCHI dependent manner. Concomitantly they show puchi-1 mutant roots have reduced VLCFA content when compared with wildtype roots. They conclude that PUCHI regulates VLCFA biosynthesis as part of a pathway controlling cell proliferation during lateral root formation.

Stephenson P, Stacey N, Brüser M, Pullen N, Ilyas M, O’Neill C, Wells R, Østergaard L (2019) The power of model-to-crop translation illustrated by reducing seed loss from pod shatter in oilseed rape. Plant Reprod. doi: 10.1007/s00497-019-00374-9

Open Access

Pauline Stephenson and Lars Østergaard at the John Innes Centre lead this study in which they demonstrate that lessons learnt from understanding the genes involved in fruit ripening in Arabidopsis lead to an ability to adjust the pod-opening process in oilseed rape. They have combined two mutant alleles, first characterized in Arabidopsis, to develop OSR plants that have significantly increased yield. In addition they present a new software tool for the analysis of pod shatter data in other crops plants.

O’Hara A, Headland LR, Díaz-Ramos LA, Morales LO, Strid Å, Jenkins GI (2019) Regulation of Arabidopsis gene expression by low fluence rate UV-B independently of UVR8 and stress signaling. Photochem Photobiol Sci. doi: 10.1039/c9pp00151d

Open Access

This UK-Swedish collaboration is led by Andrew O’Hara from the Jenkins lab in the University of Glasgow. They continue the lab focus on the UV-B receptor UVR8, in this case performing a transcriptomic analysis of wildtype and uvr8 mutants grown under low UV-B fluence rates. They analyse one differentially expressed gene in more detail, the transcription factor ARABIDOPSIS NAC DOMAIN CONTAINING PROTEIN 13 (ANAC13), which was induced by UV-B but by the activity of any other photoreceptor.

Gumber HK, McKenna JF, Tolmie AF, Jalovec AM, Kartick AC, Graumann K, Bass HW (2019) MLKS2 is an ARM domain and F-actin-associated KASH protein that functions in stomatal complex development and meiotic chromosome segregation Nucleus. doi: 10.1080/19491034.2019.1629795

Open Access

Hardeep Gumber is first author on this US-led study that includes Joe KcKenna, Andrea Tolmie and Katja Graumann from Oxford Brookes as co-authors. They characterise the Maize LINC KASH AtSINE-like2 protein, MLKS2, whose targeting to the nuclear periphery requires its N-terminal armadillo repeats. Mutant mlks2 plants have pleiotropic plant phenotypes and on a nuclear level show defects in chromosome segregation and positioning. These findings support a model in which cytoplasmic actin is linked to chromatin through the LINC-KASH nuclear envelope network.

Temple H, Mortimer JC, Tryfona T, Yu X, Lopez-Hernandez F, Sorieul M, Anders N, Dupree P (2019) Two members of the DUF579 family are responsible for arabinogalactan methylation in Arabidopsis. Plant Direct. doi: 10.1002/pld3.117

Open Access

Henry Temple is first author on this work from the University of Cambridge that characterizes two members of the DUF579 family (AGM1 and AGM2). These proteins are required for 4-O-methylation of glucuronic acid within highly glycosylated arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs).

Remember to download the latest edition of the GARNish newsletter.

GARNish Edition 31 available to download!

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Published on: July 2, 2019

The 31st edition of the GARNish newletter is now available for download.

Included in this edition is:

– Update from UKPSF and the Global Plant Council

– List of Upcoming Events

– Introducing the Shiny 3D RNA-Seq analysis App

– Reports from UK Plant Networks

– Update from UKRI-BBSRC including about transfers of responsive mode grants

– Stories from Fascination of Plants Day

– Report from ICAR2019

– The Future of Gene Editing in the UK

– Spotlight on the University of Liverpool

– Analysis of Arabidopsis Publications

If you like to suggest any articles to be included in future edition then please contact the GARNet coordinator, Geraint Parry.

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