Entries by Jennifer Mach

Fear Not the Unknown: OPENER as a Study in Shedding Light on Genes with Unknown Function

Genome sequencing has become (relatively) cheap and easy, but assigning functions to the genes identified remains challenging—even in exhaustively studied species such as Arabidopsis thaliana, where functions of ~30% of genes remain unknown. Many of these genes likely have functions that are essential, and therefore, functional characterization is more challenging because loss of function of […]

Looking Over Allopolyploid Clover

The allotetraploid species white clover (Trifolium repens) resulted from hybridization of two diploid European species whose extant relatives are found only in limited regions–– T. occidentale is a creeping clover found only in saline areas near the shores of Western Europe and T. pallescens is found only at restricted altitudes in Alpine habitats (figure). So, […]

tyRNA Bubbles: Extracellular Vesicles Carry 10–15-nt Small RNAs and Specific Groups of MicroRNAs

Plant and animal cells produce various types and sizes of extracellular vesicles (EVs). Mammalian EVs function in intercellular communication and plant EVs carry defense compounds, defense-related proteins, and RNAs and participate in the defense against fungal pathogens (reviewed in Hansen and Nielsen, 2017). Mammalian EVs transport small RNAs and plant 21–24 nucleotide small RNAs can […]

Meiocyte-specific Small RNAs and Meiotic Recombination: Questions and Anthers

Small RNAs regulate gene expression and epigenetic modifications (via RNA-directed DNA methylation), and therefore play key roles in plant development (reviewed in Borges and Martienssen, 2015). Moreover, emerging evidence indicates that small RNAs may have a role in the repair of double-stranded breaks (DSB) induced by DNA damage or nuclease cleavage, as 21-nucleotide small RNAs […]

Corn ChIPs and RNA-seq: Researchers Dip into Advanced Tools and Resources to Examine bZIP Transcription Factor Function in the Maize Endosperm

The endosperm of maize (Zea mays) seeds undergoes a complicated developmental program that ends with the production of massive amounts of storage compounds, particularly carbohydrates, but also including zein storage proteins (reviewed in Li and Berger, 2012; Hannah and Boehlein, 2017; Larkins et al., 2017). In two recent papers from The Plant Cell, the authors […]

Inhibition of TOR, Nitrogen Assimilation, and Amino Acid Biosynthesis: Lessons from Chlamydomonas

To survive, organisms must sense their nutritional status (including nutrient availability and quality) and regulate their growth and metabolism accordingly. In plants, animals, and fungi, the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) kinase regulates metabolism, nutrient sensing, and growth (reviewed in Dobrenel et al., 2016). However, in most plants, rapamycin does not efficiently inhibit TOR function, hampering […]

Nectary Specification in Petunia and Arabidopsis

Studies of flower development have lots of information about petals, carpels, and stamens, but let’s not forget the birds and the bees—and the flies and moths—and what draws pollinators to insect-pollinated flowers, including flower color, shape, and rewards that provide energy. For example, to attract pollinators, many plants produce sugar-rich nectar, secreted from specialized organs […]

Escape from Centromere Land

As plant biologists, we do love to consider the physiological adaptations plants have made to being sessile organisms—unlike animals, plants cannot move away from adverse environmental conditions such as high temperature, etc. We commonly consider such responses for organisms, but what about genes? Over evolutionary time (much as environmental conditions change rapidly and unpredictably), the […]