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Article of the Month

Archive of previous entries


July 2019

Plants flower in response to various environmental cues including the day length, a phenomenon known as photoperiodism. Some plants flower only when days are short, others only when days are long, and still others can flower regardless of the day length (day neutral). This process is controlled in many plant species by FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) proteins, which move to the shoot apex and interact with FD proteins to switch on the floral initiation pathway. Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is a day-neutral flowering plant with five FT proteins, some acting as activators and some as repressors of flowering. In July's article of the month, Beinecke et al. show that flowering under long day conditions in this species requires the gene NtFT5, which interestingly comes from an ancestor that only flowers during short days. Learning more about the control of flowering could help to improve crop yields and seasonal responses.

Article details: Beinecke FA et al. (2018) The FT/FD-dependent initiation of flowering under long-day conditions in the day-neutral species Nicotiana tabacum originates from the facultative short-day ancestor N. tomentosiformis. Plant J 96, 329342.

June 2019

The maize gene ZmBCH2 encodes the enzyme β-carotene hydroxylase 2, which converts β-carotene to zeaxanthin in the endosperm of maize seeds. In June's article of the month, Jin et al. show how the ZmBCH2 gene is regulated by testing a deletion series of the ZmBCH2 promoter linked to a reporter gene in transgenic maize, revealing that the 5' untranslated region is necessary for strong expression. By testing the reporter gene in rice, they were able to isolate the promoter from the effects of endogenous maize transcription factors. They were then able to express the reporter gene along with the maize transcription factors ZmPBF and ZmGAMYB in rice to show that the transcription factors have independent additive effects on gene expression. This provides a strategy for the quantitative control of gene expression in transgenic plants.

Article details: Jin X et al. (2019) ZmPBF and ZmGAMYB transcription factors independently transactivate the promoter of the maize (Zea mays) β-carotene hydroxylase 2 gene.  New Phytol 222, 793–804. 

May 2019

The spread of HIV can be slowed by the use of microbicides containing proteins that stick to the virus and block its interactions with human cells. However, HIV mutates quickly to create new resistant strains. Microbicides are therefore more effective if they contain three or more proteins with different targets on the virus, but the production of multiple proteins for such microbicidal cocktails is very expensive. In May's article of the month, Vamvaka et al. show that rice can be used to produce three different microbicidal proteins at the same time, and that crude seed extracts can neutralize the virus. This offers hope that an inexpensive microbicidal cocktail could be developed in the future.

Article details: Vamvaka E et al. (2018) Unexpected synergistic HIV neutralization by a triple microbicide produced in rice endosperm. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 115, E7854E7862


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