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Concept: Sunflower


Aflatoxin, a mycotoxin found commonly in maize and peanuts worldwide, is associated with liver cancer, acute toxicosis, and growth impairment in humans and animals. In Tanzania, sunflower seeds are a source of snacks, cooking oil, and animal feed. These seeds are a potential source of aflatoxin contamination. However, reports on aflatoxin contamination in sunflower seeds and cakes are scarce. The objective of the current study was to determine total aflatoxin concentrations in sunflower seeds and cakes from small-scale oil processors across Tanzania. Samples of sunflower seeds (n = 90) and cakes (n = 92) were collected across two years, and analyzed for total aflatoxin concentrations using a direct competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). For seed samples collected June-August 2014, the highest aflatoxin concentrations were from Dodoma (1.7-280.6 ng/g), Singida (1.4-261.8 ng/g), and Babati-Manyara (1.8-162.0 ng/g). The highest concentrations for cakes were from Mbeya (2.8-97.7 ng/g), Dodoma (1.9-88.2 ng/g), and Singida (2.0-34.3 ng/g). For seed samples collected August-October 2015, the highest concentrations were from Morogoro (2.8-662.7 ng/g), Singida (1.6-217.6 ng/g) and Mbeya (1.4-174.2 ng/g). The highest concentrations for cakes were from Morogoro (2.7-536.0 ng/g), Dodoma (1.4-598.4 ng/g) and Singida (3.2-52.8 ng/g). In summary, humans and animals are potentially at high risk of exposure to aflatoxins through sunflower seeds and cakes from micro-scale millers in Tanzania; and location influences risk.

Concepts: Aflatoxin, ELISA, ELISPOT, Assay, Eva Engvall, Peanut, Tanzania, Sunflower


Young sunflower plants track the Sun from east to west during the day and then reorient during the night to face east in anticipation of dawn. In contrast, mature plants cease movement with their flower heads facing east. We show that circadian regulation of directional growth pathways accounts for both phenomena and leads to increased vegetative biomass and enhanced pollinator visits to flowers. Solar tracking movements are driven by antiphasic patterns of elongation on the east and west sides of the stem. Genes implicated in control of phototropic growth, but not clock genes, are differentially expressed on the opposite sides of solar tracking stems. Thus, interactions between environmental response pathways and the internal circadian oscillator coordinate physiological processes with predictable changes in the environment to influence growth and reproduction.

Concepts: Environment, Sun, Seed, Flower, Plant stem, Solar energy, Sunflower, Inflorescence


Qualitative and quantitative methods were developed for selenium and sulphur mapping/quantification in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) leaves. The plants were grown for 50 days in a greenhouse, being divided into two groups, one irrigated with only deionized water and the other treated with a daily dose of 7.58 mg of Na(2)SeO(3). Leaves were collected during the growth period for directly evaluating the distribution of Se and S in these structures. For quantification analysis, pellets were produced from both CRM (100 and 1575a for Se and S, respectively) and the sunflower materials. The pellets were doped with 25 and 1200 μg g(-1) Se and 5 and 20 mg g(-1) S and analyzed by LA-ICP-MS. For accuracy purposes all the samples were also decomposed via microwave and analyzed by ICP-MS. To avoid polyatomic interferences Se and S were monitored as SeO(+) and SO(+) at m/z 96 and 48, respectively, (12)C(+) was used as an internal standard, and the ratios between SeO(+)/C(+) and SO(+)/C(+) were used for measurements. Statistic tests (t test at 95% confidence level) confirming good agreement between LA-ICP-MS and ICP-MS indicated the accuracy of this technique.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistics, Measurement, Laser, Qualitative research, Normal distribution, Quantitative research, Sunflower


Biochar addition to agricultural soils might increase the sorption of herbicides, and therefore, affect other sorption-related processes such as leaching, dissipation and toxicity for plants. In this study, the impact of wheat straw biochar on the sorption, leaching and dissipation in a soil, and toxicity for sunflower of (4-chloro-2-methylphenoxy)acetic acid (MCPA), a commonly used ionizable herbicide, was investigated. The results showed that MCPA sorption by biochar and biochar-amended soil (1.0wt% biochar) was 82 and 2.53 times higher than that by the non-amended soil, respectively. However, desorption of MCPA from biochar-amended soil was only 1.17 times lower than its desorption in non-amended soil. Biochar addition to soil reduced both MCPA leaching and dissipation. About 35% of the applied MCPA was transported through biochar-amended soil, while up to 56% was recovered in the leachates transported through non-amended soil. The half-life value of MCPA increased from 5.2d in non-amended soil to 21.5 d in biochar-amended soil. Pot experiments with sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) grown in MCPA-free, but biochar-amended soil showed no positive effect of biochar on the growth of sunflower in comparison to the non-amended soil. However, biochar itself significantly reduced the content of photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll a, b) in sunflower. There was no significant difference in the phytotoxic effects of MCPA on sunflowers between the biochar-amended soil and the non-amended soil. Furthermore, MCPA had no effect on the photosynthetic pigment contents in sunflower.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Plant, Chlorophyll, Sunflower, Phytoremediation, Heliantheae, Photosynthetic pigment, Photosynthetic pigments


The domesticated sunflower, Helianthus annuus L., is a global oil crop that has promise for climate change adaptation, because it can maintain stable yields across a wide variety of environmental conditions, including drought. Even greater resilience is achievable through the mining of resistance alleles from compatible wild sunflower relatives, including numerous extremophile species. Here we report a high-quality reference for the sunflower genome (3.6 gigabases), together with extensive transcriptomic data from vegetative and floral organs. The genome mostly consists of highly similar, related sequences and required single-molecule real-time sequencing technologies for successful assembly. Genome analyses enabled the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the Asterids, further establishing the existence of a whole-genome triplication at the base of the Asterids II clade and a sunflower-specific whole-genome duplication around 29 million years ago. An integrative approach combining quantitative genetics, expression and diversity data permitted development of comprehensive gene networks for two major breeding traits, flowering time and oil metabolism, and revealed new candidate genes in these networks. We found that the genomic architecture of flowering time has been shaped by the most recent whole-genome duplication, which suggests that ancient paralogues can remain in the same regulatory networks for dozens of millions of years. This genome represents a cornerstone for future research programs aiming to exploit genetic diversity to improve biotic and abiotic stress resistance and oil production, while also considering agricultural constraints and human nutritional needs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Virus, Genome, Flower, Sunflower


Plant oils have been utilized for a variety of purposes throughout history, with their integration into foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical products. They are now being increasingly recognized for their effects on both skin diseases and the restoration of cutaneous homeostasis. This article briefly reviews the available data on biological influences of topical skin applications of some plant oils (olive oil, olive pomace oil, sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, safflower seed oil, argan oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, borage oil, jojoba oil, oat oil, pomegranate seed oil, almond oil, bitter apricot oil, rose hip oil, German chamomile oil, and shea butter). Thus, it focuses on the therapeutic benefits of these plant oils according to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the skin, promotion of wound healing and repair of skin barrier.

Concepts: Fruit, Seed, Drupe, Medicinal plants, Linoleic acid, Sunflower, Vegetable oils, Cooking oils


Constrained, cyclic peptides encoded by plant genes represent a new generation of drug leads. Evolution has repeatedly recruited the Cys-protease asparaginyl endopeptidase (AEP) to perform their head-to-tail ligation. These macrocyclization reactions use the substrates amino terminus instead of water to deacylate, so a peptide bond is formed. How solvent-exposed plant AEPs macrocyclize is poorly understood. Here we present the crystal structure of an active plant AEP from the common sunflower, Helianthus annuus. The active site contained electron density for a tetrahedral intermediate with partial occupancy that predicted a binding mode for peptide macrocyclization. By substituting catalytic residues we could alter the ratio of cyclic to acyclic products. Moreover, we showed AEPs from other species lacking cyclic peptides can perform macrocyclization under favorable pH conditions. This structural characterization of AEP presents a logical framework for engineering superior enzymes that generate macrocyclic peptide drug leads.

Concepts: Protein, Electron, Amino acid, Enzyme, Water, Peptide bond, Ratio, Sunflower


Refined olive, corn, soybean and sunflower oils were used as cooking oils for deep-frying at two different temperatures: 160 and 190 °C, and pan-frying of potatoes at 180 °C, for ten successive sessions, under the usual domestic practice. Several chemical parameters were assayed during frying operations in order to evaluate the status of the frying oils. Refined olive oil, as frying oil, was found to be more stable than the refined seed oils. In fact, this oil has proven the greatest resistance to oxidative deterioration, and their trans-fatty acid contents and percentages of total polar compounds were found to be lower at 160 °C during deep-frying. Finally, the chemometric analysis has demonstrated that the lowest deterioration of the quality of all refined oils occurred in the refined olive oil during deep-frying at 160 °C and the highest deterioration occurred in the refined sunflower oil during pan-frying at 180 °C.

Concepts: Water, Fat, Linoleic acid, Olive oil, Oil, Sunflower, Frying, Cooking oil


Flower forms are both highly diverse and multifaceted. As well as varying in colour, size, organ number, and much more, flowers show different types of symmetry. Floral symmetry can be grouped into three main categories: asymmetry, bilateral symmetry and radial symmetry, characterised by zero, one, and multiple planes of symmetry, respectively. This review will first explore floral symmetry from a classical morphological view, then from a modern molecular perspective. The recent molecular work on symmetry in monocots and eudicots will be discussed, followed by an in-depth discussion into the evolution of CYC genes, particularly in the capitulum of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Whilst recent studies on non-model species are helping to bring new light to this field, more species coverage is required to understand how traits such as bilateral symmetry have evolved so many times, and whether the same molecular regulators were recruited for this function.

Concepts: Biology, Plant morphology, Flowering plant, Flower, Ranunculaceae, Sunflower, Asteraceae, Inflorescence


Seed storage proteins are both an important source of nutrition for humans and essential for seedling establishment. Interestingly, unusual napin-type 2S seed storage albumin precursors in sunflower contain a sequence that is released as a macrocyclic peptide during post-translational processing. The mechanism by which such peptides emerge from linear precursors proteins has received increased attention, however the structural characterization of intact precursor proteins has been limited. Here we report the 3D NMR structure of the Helianthus annuus PreproAlbumin With Sunflower trypsin inhibitor-1 (PawS1), and provide new insights into the processing of this remarkable dual-destiny protein. In seeds PawS1 is matured by asparaginyl endopeptidases (AEP) into the cyclic peptide Sunflower Trypsin Inhibitor-1 (SFTI-1) and a heterodimeric 2S albumin. The structure of PawS1 revealed that SFTI-1 and the albumin are independently folded into well-defined domains separated by a flexible linker. PawS1 was cleaved in vitro with recombinant sunflower HaAEP1 and in situ using a sunflower seed extract in a way that resembled the expected in vivo cleavages. Recombinant HaAEP1 cleaved PawS1 at multiple positions and in situ its flexible linker was removed yielding fully mature heterodimeric albumin. Liberation and cyclization of SFTI-1, however, was inefficient suggesting specific seed conditions or components may be required for in vivo biosynthesis of SFTI-1. In summary, this study has revealed the 3D structure of a macrocyclic precursor protein and provided important mechanistic insights into the maturation of sunflower proalbumins into an albumin and a macrocyclic peptide.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, In vivo, In vitro, In-gel digestion, In situ, Seed, Sunflower