Seeing Plants in Three Dimensions

Scientists are taking a new look at the inner workings of plants by imaging and modeling them in three dimensions.

“We’ve realized tremendous advances in technology for 3-D imaging of leaves,” said Tom Buckley, assistant professor of plant sciences at UC Davis.

Plant scientists are getting new insight by imaging and modeling leaves in three dimensions. (Image: University of Sydney)

Recent developments are summarized in an article in Trends in Plant Sciences, which sprang from a 2017 workshop at the University of Sydney organized by Buckley and Professor Margaret Barbour, University of Sydney.

From Lab Fruit Flies to Mosquito Extermination in 30 Years

Louis Pasteur famously compared science and its application to a tree and it’s fruit. The path from a fundamental discovery to application can be a long and winding one, but rewarding none the less.

Mosquito

Discoveries in basic genetics have now enabled scientists to wipe out lab populations of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Anthony Cornel)

Professor Ken Burtis, faculty advisor to the Chancellor and Provost, recently came across an exciting example. Burtis was looking for a study for his first year seminar class when he found a paper from Andrea Crisanti’s lab at Imperial College London. Crisanti’s team was able to wipe out a lab population of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes by introducing a disrupted gene for sex determination and using CRISPR “gene drive” technology to spread it through the population. Within eight generations, there were no female mosquitoes left for breeding.

Open Source Data Base of Non-Human Primate Brain Imaging

An international team, including researchers at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis,  has released the first open-source data sets of non-human primate brain imaging. Details of the PRIMatE Data Exchange (PRIME-DE) consortium are published today (Sept. 27) in the journal Neuron.

The project will greatly augment progress on in vivo brain imaging of non-human primates, said John Morrison, director of the CNPRC and Professor of Neurology at the UC Davis School of Medicine.

MRI images

PRIME-DE collects MRI images of brains of non-human primates. It will be a global resource for researchers. (PRIME-DE)

“Cellular Memory” of DNA Damage in Oocyte Quality Control

By Sofie Bates

Females are born with a finite number of eggs that are steadily depleted throughout their lifetime. This reserve of eggs is selected from a much larger pool of millions of precursor cells, or oocytes, that form during fetal life. So there is a substantial amount of quality control during the process of forming an egg cell, or ovum, that weeds out all but the highest quality cells. New research from Neil Hunter’s laboratory at UC Davis reveals the surprising way that this critical oocyte quality control process works.

Newly Discovered Enzyme is “Firing Pin” for Plant Immunity

SIK1 Gene Opens Possibilities for Treating Disease, Breeding Resistant Crops

Just like humans, plants have an immune system that helps them fight off infections. Plant immunity has some important differences: they don’t make antibodies and can’t fight off the same bug more quickly months or years later. However, plant cells can identify pathogens and react to them, often by producing a burst of reactive oxygen which is toxic to bacteria or fungi. Cells around an infected site will go into programmed cell death to seal off the disease.

Maureen Kinyua: Waste Not

By Aditi Risbud Bartl

As an undergraduate physics major, Maureen Kinyua discovered her passion for science—combined with a sincere interest in helping others—could lead to a fruitful career in engineering.

Maureen Kinyua is taking new approaches to recycling animal waste. (UC Davis College of Engineering)

“I liked how you could combine physics, chemistry and biology into something more applied,” she said. “Engineering also gave me a way to mix my interest in science while actually doing good for the environment.”

Beetle Adapts Chemical Mimicry To Parasitize Different Bee Species

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

A beetle that tricks bees into carrying it into their nests where it can live off their pollen, nectar and eggs adapts its deceptions to local hosts, according to research by Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a graduate student in entomology at UC Davis.

Aggregations of the larvae of Meloe franciscanus beetles lure male digger bees (genus Habropoda) with chemical signals that mimic female sex pheromones. The larvae, also known as triungulins, attach themselves to males, transfer to female bees during copulation and hitch a ride back to the nest, where they feed on bee eggs and provisions and emerge as adult beetles the following winter.

Seabird Study Provides Insights into Sexual Selection

By Greg Watry

What scent attracts a seabird’s mate?

Gabrielle Nevitt holds a Leach's storm-petrel.

Professor Gabrielle Nevitt has studied Leach’s storm-petrels since 1996, first on Kent Island and then Bon Portage Island. (Courtesy photo)

It’s a question on the mind of Professor Gabrielle Nevitt, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. An expert on the chemical senses of birds, Nevitt and members of her lab have been studying Leach’s storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucohoa) for over 20 years with the goal of making the species a model for chemical ecology in birds.

Study Challenges Evolution of How Humans Acquired Language

By Karen Nikos-Rose

A gene implicated in affecting speech and language, FOXP2, is held up as a “textbook” example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. But in a paper in the journal Cell on Aug. 2, researchers challenge this finding. Their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.

Brain graphic

What makes us human? The FOXP2 gene has been associated with uniquely human language abilities. But a new study with a wider variety of people shows no evidence of selection for FOXP2 in modern humans. (Image by Brenna Henn, UC Davis)

Gene Discovery Pushes Back Origins of Insect Sense of Smell

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

Doctoral candidate Philipp Brand and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis, had just finished compiling the genome, or complete set of genetic material of the firebrat — a tiny wingless, nocturnal insect found throughout much of the world — when something surprised him.

Adult firebrat (left) and developmental stages. Firebrats are among the most ancient types of insects and can be pests attacking paper and fabrics. Photo by Dong-Hwan Choe, UC IPM.

There they were–odorant receptor genes, the scent-detecting genes thought to have evolved with winged insects more than 400 million years ago. But this groundbreaking discovery indicates they evolved millions of years earlier.