Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Plant methods


BACKGROUND: Plant grafting techniques have deepened our understanding of the signals facilitating communication between the root and shoot, as well as between shoot and reproductive organs. Transmissible signalling molecules can include hormones, peptides, proteins and metabolites: some of which travel long distances to communicate stress, nutrient status, disease and developmental events. While hypocotyl micrografting techniques have been successfully established for Arabidopsis to explore root to shoot communications, inflorescence grafting in Arabidopsis has not been exploited to the same extent. Two different strategies (horizontal and wedge-style inflorescence grafting) have been developed to explore long distance signalling between the shoot and reproductive organs. We developed a robust wedge-cleft grafting method, with success rates greater than 87%, by developing better tissue contact between the stems from the inflorescence scion and rootstock. We describe how to perform a successful inflorescence stem graft that allows for reproducible translocation experiments into the physiological, developmental and molecular aspects of long distance signalling events that promote reproduction. RESULTS: Wedge grafts of the Arabidopsis inflorescence stem were supported with silicone tubing and further sealed with parafilm to maintain the vascular flow of nutrients to the shoot and reproductive tissues. Nearly all (87%) grafted plants formed a strong union between the scion and rootstock. The success of grafting was scored using an inflorescence growth assay based upon the growth of primary stem. Repeated pruning produced new cauline tissues, healthy flowers and reproductive siliques, which indicates a healthy flow of nutrients from the rootstock. Removal of the silicone tubing showed a tightly fused wedge graft junction with callus proliferation. Histological staining of sections through the graft junction demonstrated the differentiation of newly formed vascular connections, parenchyma tissue and lignin accumulation, supporting the presumed success of the graft union between two sections of the primary inflorescence stem. CONCLUSIONS: We describe a simple and reliable method for grafting sections of an Arabidopsis inflorescence stem. This step-by-step protocol facilitates laboratories without grafting experience to further explore the molecular and chemical signalling which coordinates communications between the shoot and reproductive tissues.

Concepts: Reproductive system, Grafting, Plant stem, Plant reproduction, Rose, Rootstock, Tree shaping, Tomato grafting


Trehalose is a non-reducing disaccharide that is used as an osmolyte, transport sugar, carbon reserve and stress protectant in a wide range of organisms. In plants, trehalose 6-phosphate (Tre6P), the intermediate of trehalose biosynthesis, is thought to be a signal of sucrose status. Trehalose itself may play a role in pathogenic and symbiotic plant-microbe interactions, in responses to abiotic stress and in developmental signalling, but its precise functions are unknown. A major obstacle to investigating its function is the technical difficulty of measuring the very low levels of trehalose usually found in plant tissues, as most of the established trehalose assays lack sufficient specificity and/or sensitivity.

Concepts: Bacteria, Glucose, Plant, Carbohydrate, Sugar, Disaccharide, Fructose, Sucrose


Social media now complements many parts of our lives. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other social networking sites allow users to share and interact with online content and to connect with like-minded people. Its strengths – rapid dissemination and amplification of content and the ability to lead informal conversations – make it a powerful tool to use in a professional context. This commentary explains the overall concept of social media and offers suggestions on usage and possible types of scientific content. It advises researchers on the potential benefits and how to take a strategic approach towards building a social media presence. It also presents examples of effective social media use within the plant science community. Common reasons for scientists to not engage with social media include the fear of appearing unprofessional, posting something wrong or being misunderstood, or a lack of confidence in their computer skills. With the rapid changes in academic publishing, dissemination and science communication, as well as the rise of ‘altmetrics’ to track online engagement with scientific content, digital literacy will become an essential skill in a scientist’s tool kit.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Research, Web 2.0, Social network service, Scientist, Twitter, Facebook


Water availability is a major limiting factor for wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production in rain-fed agricultural systems worldwide. Root system architecture has important functional implications for the timing and extent of soil water extraction, yet selection for root architectural traits in breeding programs has been limited by a lack of suitable phenotyping methods. The aim of this research was to develop low-cost high-throughput phenotyping methods to facilitate selection for desirable root architectural traits. Here, we report two methods, one using clear pots and the other using growth pouches, to assess the angle and the number of seminal roots in wheat seedlings- two proxy traits associated with the root architecture of mature wheat plants.

Concepts: Plant, Water, Wheat, Common wheat, Spelt, Root, Irrigation, Triticeae


BACKGROUND: Phloem-feeding insects are among the most devastating pests worldwide. They not only cause damage by feeding from the phloem, thereby depleting the plant from photo-assimilates, but also by vectoring viruses. Until now, the main way to prevent such problems is the frequent use of insecticides. Applying resistant varieties would be a more environmental friendly and sustainable solution. For this, resistant sources need to be identified first. Up to now there were no methods suitable for high throughput phenotyping of plant germplasm to identify sources of resistance towards phloem-feeding insects. RESULTS: In this paper we present a high throughput screening system to identify plants with an increased resistance against aphids. Its versatility is demonstrated using an Arabidopsis thaliana activation tag mutant line collection. This system consists of the green peach aphid Myzus persicae (Sulzer) and the circulative virus Turnip yellows virus (TuYV). In an initial screening, with one plant representing one mutant line, 13 virus-free mutant lines were identified by ELISA. Using seeds produced from these lines, the putative candidates were re-evaluated and characterized, resulting in nine lines with increased resistance towards the aphid. CONCLUSIONS: This M. persicae-TuYV screening system is an efficient, reliable and quick procedure to identify among thousands of mutated lines those resistant to aphids. In our study, nine mutant lines with increased resistance against the aphid were selected among 5160 mutant lines in just 5 months by one person. The system can be extended to other phloem-feeding insects and circulative viruses to identify insect resistant sources from several collections, including for example genebanks and artificially prepared mutant collections.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Hemiptera, Aphid, Aphididae, Myzus persicae


Targeted genome engineering (also known as genome editing) has emerged as an alternative to classical plant breeding and transgenic (GMO) methods to improve crop plants. Until recently, available tools for introducing site-specific double strand DNA breaks were restricted to zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) and TAL effector nucleases (TALENs). However, these technologies have not been widely adopted by the plant research community due to complicated design and laborious assembly of specific DNA binding proteins for each target gene. Recently, an easier method has emerged based on the bacterial type II CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas (CRISPR-associated) immune system. The CRISPR/Cas system allows targeted cleavage of genomic DNA guided by a customizable small noncoding RNA, resulting in gene modifications by both non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) and homology-directed repair (HDR) mechanisms. In this review we summarize and discuss recent applications of the CRISPR/Cas technology in plants.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Genome, RNA, DNA-binding protein


Recent developments in unmanned aerial platforms (UAP) have provided research opportunities in assessing land allocation and crop physiological traits, including response to abiotic and biotic stresses. UAP-based remote sensing can be used to rapidly and cost-effectively phenotype large numbers of plots and field trials in a dynamic way using time series. This is anticipated to have tremendous implications for progress in crop genetic improvement.

Concepts: Gene, Remote sensing


Leaf rust (LR), caused by Puccinia triticina and is an important disease of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). The most sustainable method for controlling rust diseases is deployment of cultivars incorporating adult plant resistance (APR). However, phenotyping breeding populations or germplasm collections for resistance in the field is dependent on weather conditions and limited to once a year. In this study, we explored the ability to phenotype APR to LR under accelerated growth conditions (AGC; i.e. constant light and controlled temperature) using a method that integrates assessment at both seedling and adult growth stages. A panel of 21 spring wheat genotypes, including disease standards carrying known APR genes (i.e. Lr34 and Lr46) were characterised under AGC and in the field.

Concepts: Gene, Genotype, Evolution, Phenotype, Wheat, Common wheat, Genotype-phenotype distinction, Wheat leaf rust


Accurate floral staging is required to aid research into pollen and flower development, in particular male development. Pollen development is highly sensitive to stress and is critical for crop yields. Research into male development under environmental change is important to help target increased yields. This is hindered in monocots as the flower develops internally in the pseudostem. Floral staging studies therefore typically rely on destructive analysis, such as removal from the plant, fixation, staining and sectioning. This time-consuming analysis therefore prevents follow up studies and analysis past the point of the floral staging.

Concepts: Medical imaging, Fruit, Pollination, Maize, Plant morphology, Flowering plant, Flower, Pollen


Computer-based phenotyping of plants has risen in importance in recent years. Whilst much software has been written to aid phenotyping using image analysis, to date the vast majority has been only semi-automatic. However, such interaction is not desirable in high throughput approaches. Here, we present a system designed to analyse plant images in a completely automated manner, allowing genuine high throughput measurement of root traits. To do this we introduce a new set of proxy traits.

Concepts: Plant, Root, Graphic design