Stanford, CA—Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert energy from the sunlight into chemical energy in the form of sugars. These sugars are used by plants to grow and function, as well...
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Stanford, CA—Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae, and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into...
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Stanford, CA— Proteins are the machinery that accomplishes almost every task in every cell in every living organism. The instructions for how to build each protein are written into a cell’s DNA. But...
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Stanford, CA—When it comes to cellular architecture, function follows form. Plant cells contain a dynamic cytoskeleton which is responsible for directing cell growth, development, movement, and...
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Each year, the journal The Scientist ranks academic research institutions across the US. This year, Plant Biology is among the top 5. We will make every effort to keep this place among the most...
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AudioStanford, CA—Sugars are an essential source of energy for microrganisms, animals, and humans. They are produced by plants, which convert...
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New work has for the first time elucidated the atomic structures of the bacterial prototype of sugar transporters, termed “SWEET” transporters, found in plants and humans. These bacterial sugar...
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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....
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Carnegie researchers recently 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 (...
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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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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...
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Arthur Grossman believes that the future of plant science depends on research that spans ecology, physiology, molecular biology and genomics. As such, work in his lab has been extremely diverse. He identifies new functions associated with photosynthetic processes, the mechanisms of coral bleaching...
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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...
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On SFGate: Carnegie's José Dinneny uses firefly proteins to light up certain plants and reveal root system behavior. More
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New work from a joint team of plant biologists and ecologists has uncovered the factor behind an important innovation that makes grasses—both the kind found in native prairies and the kind we’ve...
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Stanford, CA— You’ve probably seen news stories about the highly lauded, much-discussed genome editing system CRISPR/Cas9. But did you know the system was actually derived from bacteria, which use it...
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Explore Carnegie Science

April 9, 2018

Palo Alto, CA—Senior scientist Arthur Grossman of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology was part of a team* awarded a three-year grant, with $100,000 for each year, from the International Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Organization. The team will use an integrated approach to investigate how light and metabolic signals control photosynthetic processes in algae.  

HFSP’s collaborative research grants are given for endeavors that address “complex mechanisms of living organisms.” The program only supports “cutting-edge, risky projects” conducted by globally distributed teams.

Grossman has been studying algae for years.  Algae dominate the oceans, produce half of the

February 16, 2018

Stanford, CA—Roots face many challenges in the soil in order to supply the plant with the necessary water and nutrients.  New work from Carnegie and Stanford University’s José Dinneny shows that one of these challenges, salinity, can cause root cells to explode if the risk is not properly sensed. The findings, published by Current Biology, could help scientists improve agricultural productivity in saline soils, which occur across the globe and reduce crop yields.

Salts build up in soils from natural causes, such as sea spray, or can be introduced as a consequence of irrigation and poor land management. Salinity has deleterious effects on plant health and limits crop yields,

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University
January 9, 2018

Washington, DC— Without eyes, ears, or a central nervous system, plants can perceive the direction of environmental cues and respond to ensure their survival.

For example, roots need to extend through the maze of nooks and crannies in the soil toward sources of water and nutrients. The various ways that plants guide this branching to take advantage of their environment is of great interest to scientists and of potential use by farmers in need of crops that produce more food with fewer resources.

Carnegie and Stanford University biologist José Dinneny has spent years studying how root growth responds to water, particularly through a phenomenon called hydropatterning, which

October 4, 2017

Science News magazine has selected José Dinneny, of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, as one of ten young scientists to watch in 2017. The researchers were selected because they are likely to make big discoveries. The investigators are spotlighted in the October 14 edition of Science News available online today at

Dinneny looks at the mechanisms plants use to sense water availability and survive stressful conditions such as drought and high salinity. He investigates developmental pathways and molecular genetic mechanisms involved in shaping the plant to suit the environment. His work has included the processes of water-stress responses in plants at

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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 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 achieve broad, durable

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 to genes for which no function had

Carnegie researchers recently 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 measurement of sugar

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

One way to adapt to climate change is to understand how plants can thrive in the changing environment. José Dinneny looks at the mechanisms that control environmental responses in plants, including responses to salty soils and different moisture conditions—work that provides the foundation for developing crops for the changing climate.

The Dinneny  lab focuses on understanding how developmental processes such as cell-type specification regulate responses to environmental change. Most studies have considered the organ or even the whole organism as a single responsive unit and ignore the potential diversity of responses by the various cell-types composing an organism. Dinneny has

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 form different orientations, from top to bottom, and different poles. She looks at regulation by small RNA’s, the function of small so-called Zipper proteins, and how hormone biosynthesis and response controls the plant’s growth.

Despite an enormous variety in leaf shape and arrangement, the basic body plan of plants is about the same: stems and leaves alternate in repeating units. The structure responsible 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 for

It’s common knowledge that light is essential for plants to perform photosynthesis—converting light energy into chemical energy by transforming carbon dioxide and water into sugars for fuel. Plants maximize the process by bending toward the light in a process called phototropism, which is particularly important for germinated seedlings to maximize light capture for growth. Winslow Briggs has been a worldwide leader in unraveling the molecular mechanisms behind this essential plant process.

Over a decade ago Briggs and colleagues discovered and first characterized the photoreceptor family that mediates this directional response and named the two members phototropin 1 and