Stanford, CA— Like humans, plants are surrounded by and closely associated with microbes. The majority of these microbes are beneficial, but some can cause devastating disease. Maintaining the...
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Washington, D.C.—The pervasive plant fiber cellulose, which makes up cell walls, represents most of the biomass on Earth and is used to create everything from textiles and building materials,...
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Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman teamed up with engineers at Stanford University (including Fritz Prinz and graduate students Zubin Huang and  Witchukorn Phuthong) to develop the use of atomic...
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Washington Post gardening columnist, Adrian Higgins, writes about the quest for the perfect tomato and this month's Capital Science Evening speaker, Harry Klee of the University of...
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On SFGate: Carnegie's José Dinneny uses firefly proteins to light up certain plants and reveal root system behavior....
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Stanford, CA— Plants form a vast network of below-ground roots that search soil for needed resources. The structure and function of this root network can be highly adapted to particular...
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Stanford, CA—Wolf B. Frommer, Director of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, has been elected as a member of the German Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, one of the world’s...
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In 1903 the Carnegie Institution established a Desert Laboratory to explore the properties of desert plants. From that humble stone building in Tucson, Arizona, eventually emerged our spectacular...
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Several years ago, Carnegie researchers  constructed genetically encoded FRET sensors for a variety of important molecules such as glucose and glutamate. The centerpiece of these sensors is a recognition element derived from the superfamily of bacterial binding protiens called periplasmic...
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Today, humanity is increasingly aware of the impact it has on the environment and the difficulties caused when the environment impacts our communities. Environmental change can be particularly harsh when the plants we use for food, fuel, feed and fiber are affected by this change. High salinity is...
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Carnegie will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges. Department of Plant Biology Director...
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Zhiyong Wang was appointed acting director of Department of Plant Biology in 2018. Wang’s research aims to understand how plant growth is controlled by environmental and endogenous signals. Being sessile, plants respond environmental changes by altering their growth behavior. As such, plants...
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Plants are essential to life on Earth and provide us with food, fuel, clothing, and shelter.  Despite all this, we know very little about how they do what they do. Even for the best-studied species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana --a wild mustard studied in the lab--we know about less than 20%...
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Understanding how plants grow can lead to improving crops.  Plant scientist Kathryn Barton, who joined Carnegie in 2001, investigates just that: what controls the plant’s body plan, from  the time it’s an embryo to its adult leaves. These processes include how plant parts...
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Stanford, CA —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...
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Stanford, CA— Algae may hold the key to feeding the world’s burgeoning population. Don’t worry; no one is going to make you eat them. But because they are more efficient than most plants at taking in...
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Stanford, CA—New work from Carnegie’s Shouling Xu and Zhiyong Wang reveals that the process of synthesizing many important master proteins in plants involves extensive modification, or “tagging” by...
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Explore Carnegie Science

the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida that is hosting the algae, which are responsible for the red fluorescence spots observed in the body of the animal.  Image courtesy of Tingting Xiang.
June 19, 2019

Palo Alto, CA—What factors govern algae’s success as “tenants” of their coral hosts both under optimal conditions and when oceanic temperatures rise? A Victoria University of Wellington-led team of experts that includes Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman investigates this question.

Corals are marine invertebrates that build large exoskeletons from which colorful reefs are constructed. But this reef-building is only possible because of a mutually beneficial relationship between the coral and various species of single-celled algae called dinoflagellates that live inside the cells of coral polyps.

These algae are photosynthetic, which means that like

A teosinte plant growing in a corn field on the Stanford University campus, courtesy of Yongxian Lu.
May 24, 2019

Palo Alto, CA— Determining how one species becomes distinct from another has been a subject of fascination dating back to Charles Darwin. New research led by Carnegie’s Matthew Evans and published in Nature Communications elucidates the mechanism that keeps maize distinct from its ancient ancestor grass, teosinte.

Speciation requires isolation. Sometimes this isolation is facilitated by geography, such as mountains chains or islands that divide two populations and prevent them from interbreeding until they become different species. But in other instances, the barriers separating species are physiological factors that prevent them from successfully mating, or from

Plant cells under microscope. Shutterstock.
May 23, 2019

Palo Alto, CA—Photosynthesis makes our atmosphere oxygen-rich and forms the bedrock of our food supply. But under changing or stressful environmental conditions, the photosynthetic process can become unbalanced, resulting in an excess of highly reactive oxygen molecules that could cause cellular damage if they aren’t neutralized.  

New work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by Carnegie’s Shai Saroussi and Arthur Grossman explores how the photosynthetic algae Chlamydomonas shields itself from this potential danger. Understanding how plants minimize self-inflicted harm in this scenario could help scientists engineer crops with improved

May 16, 2019

The Office of the President has selected two new Carnegie Venture Grants. Peter Driscoll of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Sally June Tracy of the Geophysical Laboratory were awarded a venture grant for their proposal Carbon-rich Super-Earths: Constraining Internal Structure from Dynamic Compression Experiments. Plant Biology’s Sue Rhee and Global Ecology’s Joe Berry and Jen Johnson were awarded a Venture Grant for their project Thermo-adaptation of Photosynthesis in Extremophilic Desert Plants.

Carnegie Science Venture Grants ignore conventional boundaries and bring together cross-disciplinary researchers with fresh eyes to explore different questions.

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Fresh water constitutes less than 1% of the surface water on earth, yet the importance of this simple molecule to all life forms is immeasurable. Water represents the most vital reagent for chemical reactions occurring in a cell. In plants, water provides the structural support necessary for plant growth. It acts as the carrier for nutrients absorbed from the soil and transported to the shoot. It also provides the chemical components necessary to generate sugar and biomass from light and carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. While the importance of water to plants is clear, an understanding as to how plants perceive water is limited. Most studies have focused on environmental conditions

Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now that many genomes from algae to mosses and trees are publicly available, this information can be mined using bioinformatics to build models to understand gene function and ultimately for designing plants for a wide spectrum of applications.

 Carnegie researchers have pioneered a genome-wide gene association network Aranet that can assign functions

Carnegie will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges. Department of Plant Biology Director Wolf Frommer,  with a team of researchers from the International Rice Research Institute, Kansas State University, and Iowa State University, will continue to pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Transformative Strategy for Controlling Rice Blight.”

Rice bacterial blight is one of the major challenges to food security, and this project aims to

Several years ago, Carnegie researchers  constructed genetically encoded FRET sensors for a variety of important molecules such as glucose and glutamate. The centerpiece of these sensors is a recognition element derived from the superfamily of bacterial binding protiens called periplasmic binding protein (PBPs), proteins that are primary receptors for moving chemicals  for hundreds of different small molecules. PBPs are ideally suited for sensor construction. The scientists fusie individual PBPs with a pair of variants and produced a large set of sensors, e.g. for sugars like maltose, ribose and glucose or for the neurotransmitter glutamate. These sensors have been adopted for

Devaki Bhaya wants to understand how environmental stressors, such as light, nutrients, and viral attacks are sensed by and affect photosynthetic microorganisms. She is also interested in understanding the mechanisms behind microorganism movements, and how individuals in groups communicate, evolve, share resources. To these ends, she focuses on one-celled, aquatic cyanobacteria, in the lab with model organisms and with organisms in naturally occurring communities.

 Phototaxis is the ability of organisms to move directionally in response to a light source.  Many cyanobacteria exhibit phototaxis, both towards and away from light. The ability to move into optimal light

Matthew Evans wants to provide new tools for plant scientists to engineer better seeds for human needs. He focuses on one of the two phases to their life cycle. In the first phase, the sporophyte is the diploid generation—that is with two similar sets of chromosomes--that undergoes meiosis to produce cells called spores. Each spore divides forming a single set of chromosomes (haploid) --the gametophyte--which produces the sperm and egg cells.

Evans studies how the haploid genome is required for normal egg and sperm function. In flowering plants, the female gametophyte, called the embryo sac, consists of four cell types: the egg cell, the central cell, and two types of

Plants are essential to life on Earth and provide us with food, fuel, clothing, and shelter.  Despite all this, we know very little about how they do what they do. Even for the best-studied species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana --a wild mustard studied in the lab--we know about less than 20% of what its genes do and how or why they do it. And understanding this evolution can help develop new crop strains to adapt to climate change.  

Sue Rhee wants to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying adaptive traits in plants to understand how these traits evolved. A bottleneck has been the limited understanding of the functions of most plant genes. Rhee’s group is

Plants are not as static as you think. David Ehrhardt combines confocal microscopy with novel visualization methods to see the three-dimensional movement  within live plant cells to reveal the other-worldly cell choreography that makes up plant tissues. These methods allow his group to explore cell-signaling and cell-organizational events as they unfold.

These methods allow his lab to investigate plant cell development and structure and molecular genetics to understand the organization and dynamic behaviors of molecules and organelles. The group tackles how cells generate asymmetries and specific shapes. A current focus is how the cortical microtubule cytoskeleton— an