Fighting Back

Plants can’t run away from attackers, so they’ve evolved unique immune defenses to protect themselves.

Feb 1, 2016
Mary Beth Aberlin

ANDRZEJ KRAUZEBotany has never been my strong suit, but this month’s focus on plant biology reminded me, yet again, what botanists already know: plants are amazing. Darwin, whose birthday is this month, described himself in an 1846 letter to the great botanist Joseph Hooker as “a man who hardly knows a daisy from a Dandelion.” But Darwin wrote a number of books about plants in his continuing effort to understand and test his conceptions about some of the more difficult predictions of evolution, including a book titled The Power of Movement in Plants. Published in 1880 to scant interest, the book never enjoyed much popularity, and after his death in 1882 was not reprinted for 84 years.

Although they employ various methods of pollination and seed dispersal to propagate their offspring, most terrestrial plants are securely rooted to one spot. They can’t run away from bacterial or fungal attackers, and thus have developed a two-pronged immunological system in order to stand up for themselves. Read all about it in “Holding Their Ground.” Some plants have even recruited a mobile defense in the form of friendly fungi that migrate to the site of pathogen attack (here).

A mnemonic popular with gardeners also touches on content in this issue: “Plant peas on President’s Day.” Or, as some would have it, St. Patrick’s Day. Exactly when you perform this earliest spring gardening task obviously depends on where you live, and it has been suggested that Gregor Mendel may have adhered to a similar dictum in the Brünn monastery garden where he did his famous pea-crossing experiments. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Mendel’s “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” another publication that aroused little to no interest for decades before resurfacing to worldwide recognition. In a Foundations article, TS intern Karen Zusi covers the debate that raged in 1902 about Mendel’s newly rediscovered data, its veracity, and what it really showed about the inheritance of traits.

Other plant biology topics covered in articles in the issue include the editing of plant genomes using CRISPR but no plasmids; a pollen rehydration mechanism; and profiles of two plant biologists (here and here).

From plant immune defenses and defenders/detractors of Mendel, we shift to the second focus in this issue: antibodies. Famous as they are for battling pathogen attacks in vertebrates, our objective was to examine antibodies as research tools and therapeutic vehicles—their validation, their use in drug delivery, and their eventual sharing of the stage in research and therapeutics with molecules that bypass some of their disadvantages.

Over the last few years we’ve covered the problems arising from the lack of reproducibility of research results, and a lot of the blame seems to lie squarely on the antibodies used to study all sorts of interactions. “Exercises for Your Abs” reports on validation procedures and techniques to ensure that your chosen antibody is actually targeting the protein you are studying. “Marriages of Opportunity” updates our coverage of advances in drug delivery using antibody-drug conjugates. And the pros and cons of using nucleic acid aptamers and protein scaffolds as antibody alternatives is the subject of a feature by Avacta Life Sciences writer Jane McLeod and CSO Paul Ko Ferrigno, who codeveloped and patented engineered protein scaffolds called “affimers” that the company sells.

In March we will be roaring in with a special issue all about sleep research. Rest up; we hope the content will keep you burning the midnight oil. 

Mary Beth Aberlin  Editor-in-Chief

January 2019

Cannabis on Board

Research suggests ill effects of cannabinoids in the womb


Sponsored Product Updates

WIN a VIAFLO 96/384 to supercharge your microplate pipetting!
WIN a VIAFLO 96/384 to supercharge your microplate pipetting!
INTEGRA Biosciences is offering labs the chance to win a VIAFLO 96/384 pipette. Designed to simplify plate replication, plate reformatting or reservoir-to-plate transfers, the VIAFLO 96/384 allows labs without the space or budget for an expensive pipetting robot to increase the speed and throughput of routine tasks.
FORMULATRIX® digital PCR technology to be acquired by QIAGEN
FORMULATRIX® digital PCR technology to be acquired by QIAGEN
FORMULATRIX has announced that their digital PCR assets, including the CONSTELLATION® series of instruments, is being acquired by QIAGEN N.V. (NYSE: QGEN, Frankfurt Stock Exchange: QIA) for up to $260 million ($125 million upfront payment and $135 million of milestones).  QIAGEN has announced plans for a global launch in 2020 of a new series of digital PCR platforms that utilize the advanced dPCR technology developed by FORMULATRIX combined with QIAGEN’s expertise in assay development and automation.
Application of CRISPR/Cas to the Generation of Genetically Engineered Mice
Application of CRISPR/Cas to the Generation of Genetically Engineered Mice
With this application note from Taconic, learn about the power that the CRISPR/Cas system has to revolutionize the field of custom mouse model generation!
Translational Models of Obesity, Dysmetabolism, Diabetes, and Complications
Translational Models of Obesity, Dysmetabolism, Diabetes, and Complications
This webinar, from Crown Bioscience, presents a unique continuum of translational dysmetabolic platforms that more closely mimic human disease. Learn about using next-generation rodent and spontaneously diabetic non-human primate models to accurately model human-relevant disease progression and complications related to obesity and diabetes here!