AudioStanford, CA—Plants spend their entire lifetime rooted to one spot. When faced with a bad situation, such as a swarm of hungry...
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AudioStanford, CA— Photosynthesis provides fixed carbon and energy for nearly all life on Earth, yet many aspects of this fascinating process...
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Audio Stanford, CA—Floods and droughts are increasingly in the news, and climate experts say their frequency will only go up in the future....
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March 27, 2014 Dr. José R. Dinneny, Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Plant Biology We see plants everywhere in our daily lives, but half of the plant, the root system, is hidden...
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AudioStanford, CA— Evolution is based on diversity, and sexual reproduction is key to creating a diverse population that secures...
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AudioStanford, CA— As every gardner knows, nitrogen is crucial for a plant’s growth. But nitrogen absorption is inefficient. This means that...
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Stanford, CA—Carnegie’s Li-Quing Chen, recipient of a Tansley Medal for Excellence in Plant Science, announced late last year, is honored with an editorial and minireview in New Phytologist this...
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AudioStanford, CA—Inside every plant cell, a cytoskeleton provides an interior scaffolding to direct construction of the cell’s walls, and...
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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 ...
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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...
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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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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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Explore Carnegie Science

February 12, 2019

Washington, DC— Carnegie’s Winslow Briggs, a giant in the field of plant biology who explained how seedlings grow toward light, died on February 11 at Stanford University Medical Center. He was 90.

Briggs joined Carnegie as the Director of the Department of Plant Biology in 1973 after teaching both at Harvard University—where he completed his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D.—and at Stanford University. He held the position for two decades, establishing himself as a global leader in plant genetics and physiology, publishing landmark research on the molecular mechanisms that plants and other organisms use to sense and respond to light

Sue Rhee, Thomas Clandinin and Miriam B. Goodman discuss the NeuroPlant project over a tobacco plant in the greenhouse. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)
January 22, 2019

Stanford, CA—For millennia, humanity has used medicinal plants and plant-based compounds to treat a variety of neurological ailments including epilepsy, mania, migraines, and bipolar disorder. Now a team of researchers from Carnegie and Stanford University is using microscopic worms to understand what these plant-derived molecules are and how they affect the brain’s biochemistry.

Called the NeuroPlant project, these efforts could lead to new, more efficient ways to develop drugs to treat a variety of neurological and psychiatric diseases in humans. Their work is funded by a Big Ideas grant from the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

“We’re interested

A bright field image of the anemone Aiptasia populated with its symbiotic algae.
December 6, 2018

Stanford, CA—How much of the ability of a coral reef to withstand stressful conditions is influenced by the type of algae that the corals hosts?

Corals are marine invertebrates from the phylum called cnidarians 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.

The algae are photosynthetic—meaning capable of converting the Sun’s energy into chemical energy for food, just like plants. And the exchange of nutrients between the

Devaki Bhaya
October 5, 2018

Palo Alto, CA—Carnegie’s Devaki Bhaya has been named a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. She is one of 14 new members selected as “partners and collaborators in the pursuit of the Academy mission to explore, explain, and sustain life.”

At Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology Bhaya studies how photosynthetic microorganisms are affected by environmental stressors such as light, low nutrient availability, and viruses. Her research on speciation in the microbial mats of Yellowstone National Park is providing insights into how microbial populations communicate, evolve, and share resources. These findings offered a first glimpse into the

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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 an agricultural contaminant of increasing significance. Not only does this limit the land available for use in agriculture, but in land that has been used for generations, the combination of irrigation and evaporation gradually leads to increasing soil salinity.

The Dinneny lab focuses on understanding how developmental processes such as cell-type specification regulate responses to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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