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Stanford, CA—Cereals are grasses that produce grains, the bulk of our food supply. Carnegie’s Plant Biology Department is releasing genome-wide metabolic complements of several cereals including rice, barley, sorghum, and millet. Along with corn, whose metabolic complement was released previously, these species are responsible for producing over 1.5 billion tons of grains annually world-wide. Understanding how these important species harness...

An international team of 12 leading plant biologists, including Carnegie’s Wolf Frommer, say their discoveries could have profound implications for increasing the supply of food and energy for our rapidly growing global population. All of their work focuses on the mechanisms that plants use for transporting small molecules across their membranes and thus for controlling water loss, resisting toxic metals and pests, increasing salt tolerance, and storing sugar.

Cancer cells break down sugars and produce the metabolic acid lactate at a much higher rate than normal cells. This phenomenon provides a telltale sign that cancer is present, via diagnostics such as PET scans, and possibly offers an avenue for novel cancer therapies. Now a team of Chilean researchers at The Centro de Estudios Científicos (CECs), with the collaboration of Carnegie’s Wolf Frommer, has devised a molecular sensor that can detect levels of lactate in individual cells in real time.

Until now it has not been clear how salt, a scourge to agriculture, halts the growth of the plant-root system. A team of researchers, led by the Carnegie Institution’s José Dinneny and Lina Duan, found that not all types of roots are equally inhibited. They discovered that an inner layer of tissue in the branching roots that anchor the plant is sensitive to salt and activates a stress hormone, which stops root growth. The study, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, is a boon for understanding the stress response and for developing salt-resistant crops.

Plants grow upward from a tip of undifferentiated tissue called the shoot apical meristem. As the tip extends, stem cells at the center of the meristem divide and increase in numbers. But the cells on the periphery differentiate to form plant organs, such as leaves and flowers. In between these two layers, a group of boundary cells go into a quiescent state and form a barrier that not only separates stem cells from differentiating cells, but eventually forms the borders that separate the plant’s organs.

Light is not only the source of a plant’s energy, but also an environmental signal that instructs the growth behavior of plants. As a result, a plant’s sensitivity to light is of great interest to scientists and their research on this issue could help improve crop yields down the road.

The American Society for Plant Biology (ASPB) awarded Wolf B. Frommer, director of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, the Lawrence Bogorad Award for Excellence in Plant Biology Research for “his major contributions in the development of fundamental tools and technologies essential for breakthrough discoveries that advance our understanding of glucose, sucrose, ammonium, amino acid, and nucleotide transport in plants.”

The Carnegie Institution announced today that it is a grant recipient of the Grand Challenges Explorations initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Wolf B. Frommer, director of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, jointly with Bing Yang from Iowa State University and Frank White from Kansas State University, proposed the innovative global health and development research project entitled “Transformative Strategy for Controlling Rice Disease in Developing Countries.”

The scientific community needs to make a 10-year, $100 billion investment in food and energy security, says Carnegie’s Wolf Frommer and Tom Brutnell of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in an opinion piece published in the June issue of The Scientist. They say the importance of addressing these concerns in light of a rapidly growing global population is on par with President John Kennedy’s promise to put man on the moon—a project that took a decade and cost $24 billion.