From the Beautiful to the Bizarre

Volume 31 Issue 2 | February 2017

Featured Articles

image: Plants’ Epigenetic Secrets

Plants’ Epigenetic Secrets

By Jef Akst | February 1, 2017

Unlike animals, plants stably pass on their DNA methylomes from one generation to the next. The resulting gene silencing likely hides an abundance of phenotypic variation.

image: RNA Interference Between Kingdoms

RNA Interference Between Kingdoms

By Kerry Grens | February 1, 2017

Plants and fungi can use conserved RNA interference machinery to regulate each other’s gene expression—and scientists think they can make use of this phenomenon to create a new generation of pesticides.

image: May the Force Be with You

May the Force Be with You

By Ning Wang | February 1, 2017

The dissection of how cells sense and propagate physical forces is leading to exciting new tools and discoveries in mechanobiology and mechanomedicine.




Meet some of the people featured in the February 2017 issue of The Scientist.


A Walk on the Wild Side

Plants have so much to teach us.

Speaking of Science

Notable Science Quotes

Intellectual property theft, gun violence, scientific failure, and more


This Parasitic Plant Steals More Than Nutrients From Its Hosts

The plant Lophophytum pilfers mitochondrial genes from the species it parasitizes.

Can Plants Learn to Associate Stimuli with Reward?

A group of pea plants has displayed a sensitivity to environmental cues that resembles associative learning in animals.

Pitcher Plant Enzymes Digest Gluten in Mouse Model

A newly discovered protease could break down grain proteins that trigger celiac disease.


Abscisic Acid’s Role in Ferns Finally Determined

Researchers solve the mystery of 15-year-old mutant ferns with disrupted sex determination.

Critic at Large

Opinion: An Ethical Code for Conferences

This fundamental form of scientific communication is threatened by modern recording technology and researchers who refuse to adhere to an age-old ethical code. 

Modus Operandi

Deep Pocket Exploration

A modification to traditional docking software enables the examination of a ligand’s passage into its receptor.

The Literature

Plant Photoreceptor Doubles as a Thermometer

Warmth acts on a light-sensing protein similarly to the way shade does, setting off a growth spurt in plant seedlings.

The Fungus that Poses as a Flower

Mummy berry disease coats blueberry leaves with sweet, sticky stains that smell like flowers, luring in passing insects to spread fungal spores.


From the Ground Up

Instrumental in launching Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system, Elliot Meyerowitz has since driven the use of computational modeling to study developmental biology.

Scientist to Watch

Andrea Eveland Teases Apart Gene Networks in Crop Plants

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center researcher links complex traits to the genes that underlie them.

Lab Tools

Discovering Novel Antibiotics

Three methods identify and activate silent bacterial gene clusters to uncover new drugs

Bio Business

Pharma Cooperates to Achieve Precision Medicine

The challenges of adapting drug development to the age of personalized therapies encourage collaboration among industry players.

Reading Frames

Cannibalism: Not That Weird

Eating members of your own species might turn the stomach of the average human, but some animal species make a habit of dining on their own.


19th Century Experiments Explained How Trees Lift Water

A maple branch and shattered equipment led to the cohesion-tension theory, the counterintuitive claim that water’s movement against gravity involves no action by trees.

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