Team Led by Dong Wang Discovers New Gene Process
A team of molecular biologists led by Dong Wang at UMass Amherst, working with the alfalfa-clover Medicago truncatula, has found how a gene in the host plant encodes a protein that recognizes the cell membrane surrounding the symbiotic bacteria, then directs other proteins to harvest the nutrients. Details appear online in the January edition of Nature Plants. As Wang explains, plants often recruit microbes to help them satisfy their nutritional needs, offering the products of photosynthesis as a reward. A process used by most land plants depends on asymbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. These form structures known as arbuscules that help plants capture phosphorus, sulfur, nitrogen and other micronutrients from the soil. This method is akin to scavenging, Wang says, because the amount of nitrogen available in soil is quite limited. Read more.
Ma named Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator
Prof. Li-Jun Ma has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to develop new antifungal therapies using the model fungus Fusarium oxysporum to combat the growing resistance to anti-fungal compounds, a growing problem in both clinical and agricultural settings. Read more.
Cheung/Wu lab reports broader role for FERONIA receptor kinase
Profs. Alice Cheung and Hen-ming Wu report in the journal eLife that FERONIA receptor kinase, from the model plant Arabidopsis, is necessary throughout the growth of the plant, not only for reproduction. Read more.
Wang awarded NIFA subcontract
Prof. Dong Wang was awarded a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) subcontract from Brigham Young University for $87,000 for the period 1/1/15 to 12/31/17 to conduct research on "A rhizobial peptidase that interferes with plant nitrogen acquisition".
Gierasch lab awarded Industry-Academic Collaborative Grant
Pfrof. Lila Gierasch was awarded an Industry-Academic Collaborative Research Grant. This partners $25,000 in UMass President's Enhancement Funding with $40,000 from the biotech firm Schrödinger of Cambridge, MA, to support a postdoc to research the project "Designing Modulators of Hsp70 Molecular Chaperones as Potential Therapeutics Against Cancer and Neurodegenerative Diseases".
Plant cell library donated to UMass
A collection of tissue samples from over 3,500 plants around the world has been donated to UMass Amherst and will be available for widespread use by researchers who will be able to test organisms in the collection for novel natural compounds. Initial funding for the collection is from a $150,000 UMass President's Office Science and Technology Award with Prof. Elizabeth Vierling as lead PI. Read more
Chien lab awarded grant to study bacterial stress
Assistant Professor Peter Chien was awarded a five-year grant totaling $1.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to understand how bacteria destroy their own proteins when dealing with stress. His research focuses on molecular machines in bacteria that selectively target particular proteins when the environment becomes damaging, such as during antibiotic treatments, which could reveal avenues for discovery of new drugs to treat infectious diseases. Read more
Alice Cheung delivers Distinguished Faculty Lecture
Professor Alice Cheung was chosen as one of this year's four Distinguished Faculty Lecturers. She delivered the lecture, "The Birds and the Bees: How Do Plants Produce Seeds?" on March 25th in which she described how the female lures or rejects a mate and the journey of the male to target and fertilize a female. Read more
Science Comes Naturally at UMass Amherst
Undergraduates in the College of Natural Sciences, two of whom are Biochemistry majors, discuss their experiences in the sciences at UMass Amherst.