Atkinson and Walling Secure DARPA Grant Funding

Co-PIs Peter Atkinson and Linda Walling have received funding from DARPA to develop gene editing technology in whitefly for the benefit of agriculture. This 2 year grant will build on work from initially obtained seed money from the UCR Senate and RED.  Drs. Atkinson and Walling’s project also benefited from the assistance of several very talented UCR undergraduate students, including Simran Sandhu, Katie Buker, Halondra Zamora, and  Jonathan Calero.

The team’s attached photo is of a CRISPR-edited male whitefly with white eyes on the right and a wild type male on the left.  Mutations at the white locus were subsequently confirmed and these conformed to what one expects of NHEJ-mediated repair of dsDNA breaks at the gRNA target site.  This is the first demonstration of CRISPR technology in whitefly and, as far as the investigators know, the first example of any genetic modification in it by any technology.  The whitefly eggs are very small, less than 0.4 mm long, have thick eggshells and remain attached to the leaf.  PIs Atkinson and Walling have found a way to microinject the eggs while keeping the detached leaf alive on defined media.  By comparison, other insect eggs like Drosophila and mosquito are about 1mm long and are freestanding and so can be attached to tape for microinjection.

Congratulations to the Atkinson and Walling team!

Cutler and Ma Present Plenary Talks at 2019 ASPB Conference

IIGB/CEPCEB saw unprecedented participation at the ASPB’s Plant Biology 2019 Conference in San Jose, California! CEPCEB’s own Wenbo Ma was a major symposia organizer of this year’s conference and delivered two talks, “Plant Disease and Resistance Mechanisms Major Symposium Overview by Organizer” and “Trans-kingdom RNAi executed by Secondary Small RNAs confers disease resistance”

Sean Cutler also presented a Plenary Talk, “New Tools for Dynamically Maximizing Crop Productivity”). Other IIGB Faculty who presented talks included Linda Walling (“Nymph mortality: Whitefly resistance in the non-model plants cassava and alfalfa”),and Dawn Nagel (“Time of day regulation of heat stress related growth responses”). Additionally, Meng Chen’s Assistant Project Scientist Chan Yul Yoo presented a Lightning Talk (“A nucleus-to-plastid light signaling mechanism for initiating chloroplast biogenesis”) as did Carolyn Rasmussen’s graduate student Alison Mills (“Division Plane Orientation Defects Revealed by a Synthetic Double Mutant Phenotype”).

IIGB Shines at the 2019 ASPB Conference!

IIGB/CEPCEB saw unprecedented participation at the ASPB’s Plant Biology 2019 Conference in San Jose, California! CEPCEB’s own Wenbo Ma was a major symposia organizer of this year’s conference and delivered two talks, “Plant Disease and Resistance Mechanisms Major Symposium Overview by Organizer” and “Trans-kingdom RNAi executed by Secondary Small RNAs confers disease resistance”

Other faculty presenting talks included Sean Cutler (Plenary: “New Tools for Dynamically Maximizing Crop Productivity”), Linda Walling (“Nymph mortality: Whitefly resistance in the non-model plants cassava and alfalfa”), and Dawn Nagel (“Time of day regulation of heat stress related growth responses”). Additionally, Meng Chen’s Assistant Project Scientist Chan Yul Yoo presented a Lightning Talk (“A nucleus-to-plastid light signaling mechanism for initiating chloroplast biogenesis”) as did Carolyn Rasmussen’s graduate student Alison Mills (“Division Plane Orientation Defects Revealed by a Synthetic Double Mutant Phenotype”).

Aside from talks, 23 faculty, junior researchers, and students presented posters. These included:

Sonja Winte (Bailey-Serres Lab): “Group VII ERF orchestration of the hypoxia-responsive network in Arabidopsis thaliana, rice, & maize“

Chan Yul Yoo (M. Chen Lab): “A nucleus-to-plastid light signaling mechanism for initiating chloroplast biogenesis“

Honghong Wu (Giraldo Lab): “Improving Arabidopsis salinity tolerance through cerium oxide nanoparticle scavenging of ROS and enhancing leaf mesophyll potassium retention“

Patrick Thomas (Walling Lab): “Elucidating a Nymph-Based Whitefly Resistance Mechanism in Alfalfa“  

Jacob MacWilliams (Kaloshian Lab): “A cowpea aphid salivary enzyme with dual roles in altering host immunity and physiology“  

Adam Steinbrenner (Close Lab): “Discovery of an immune receptor for a Herbivore-Associated Molecular Pattern (HAMP) to combat chewing“

Yingnan Hou (W. Ma Lab): “Plant secondary siRNAs contribute to host-induced gene silencing in oomycete pathogens“  

Cristal Zuniga Pena (Borneman Lab): “Unraveling metabolic interactions among ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ and Citrus sinensis“  

Alison Mills (Rasmussen Lab): “Division Plane Orientation Defects Revealed by a Synthetic Double Mutant Phenotype“

Marschal Bellinger (Rasmussen Lab): “Kinectin is essential for cell expansion in Zea mays

Carolyn Rasmussen, Assistant Professor: “Analyzing the role of cell shape in division plane orientation“  

Jin-Zheng Wang (Dehesh Lab): “How plastidial retrograde signaling metabolite regulates adaptive responses? “

Jaime Van Norman, Assistant Professor: “PLK1, a transmembrane receptor kinase, links lateral cell polarity with radial tissue patterning during root development“

Jessica Toth (Van Norman Lab):  “PLK3: A receptor-like kinase with lateral polar localization in root epidermal cells“

Brandon Le (X. Chen Lab) : “Dissecting the Roles of Plant-Specific RNA Polymerases IV and V in Soybean“

Emily Blair (Nagel Lab): “Contribution of time of day and the circadian clock to the heat stress responsive transcriptome in Arabidopsis“  

Alex Rajewski (Litt Lab): “Identification of Conserved Regulatory Modules in Dry and Fleshy Fruit Development“  

Ye Xu (X. Chen Lab) :  “Investigating the dynamic localization of Arabidopsis AGO1 between the nucleus, cytoplasm and the ER“

Tejasvinee Atul Mody (Nagel Lab): “Regulation of circadian clock genes by Heat Shock Transcription Factors in Arabidopsis“

Sassoum Lo (Close Lab): “Genetic analysis of pod shattering in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp] “ 

Sun Hyun Chang (Nelson Lab): “Evolution of specific receptor-target interactions in karrikin and strigolactone signaling pathways“

Stephanie Martinez (Nelson Lab): “The molecular basis for enhanced responses to karrikins, a class of germination stimulants in smoke“  

Damaris Godinez-Vidal (Kaloshian Lab): “A Novel Approach to Develop Broad-Spectrum Resistance to Plant Parasitic Nematodes“

Several IIGB/CEPCEB researchers also qualified as ASPB Travel Grant Awardees. Jin-Zheng Wang (Dehesh Lab), Sassoum Lo (Close Lab), Irma Ortiz (Walling Lab), Alex Rajewski (Litt Lab), and Sonja Winte (Bailey-Serres Lab) all won $575 to attend the conference.

Congratulations to CEPCEB’s CA State Science Fair Awardees

CEPCEB awarded two Senior Division prizes at the California State Science and Engineering Fair Awards on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. These awards recognize scientific achievement in the fields of cell and molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics or technology development that will impact our understanding of plant cell biology. Special congratulations to David He of San Diego, who received the $500 First Place award for his project titled “Effect of Genetic Modification of DMR6 in Solanum lycopersicum” . The $100 Second Place award went to Daniel Feng of Irvine for his project titled “Discovering Antibacterial Molecules in a Previously Uninvestigated Native American Medicinal Herb”.

Special thanks to CEPCEB post doc fellows Honghong Wu (PI: Juan Pablo Giraldo) and Bailong Zhang (PI: Xuemei Chen), grad student Kelley Clark (PI: Wenxiu Ma), and IIGB Microscopy Core Academic Coordinator David Carter for participating as judges at the event.

Hailing Jin receives $4M USDA grant in effort to stop the spread of citrus-destroying disease

A molecular geneticist at the University of California, Riverside, has secured a four-year grant aimed at halting the spread of a deadly bacterial disease that continues to spread among California’s citrus trees. The award of nearly $4 million, which comes from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will help cure citrus trees affected by huanglongbing disease, or HLB, and protect healthy trees from infection.

The research team led by Hailing Jin, the grant’s principal investigator, aims to achieve this goal by developing therapeutic and preventive solutions using a novel class of citrus-derived antimicrobial “peptides”— naturally occurring chains of amino acids found in all living organisms.

Read the full story here.

Research by IIGB’s Joel Sachs shows natural selection favors cheaters

Mutualisms, which are interactions between members of different species that benefit both parties, are found everywhere — from exchanges between pollinators and the plants they pollinate, to symbiotic interactions between us and our beneficial microbes.

Natural selection — the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring — predicts, however, that mutualisms should fall apart. Individuals that gain from the cooperation of others but do not reciprocate (so-called cheaters) should arise and destabilize mutualisms. Yet to date, surprisingly little evidence of such cheating or destabilization exists.

A team of biologists at the University of California, Riverside, has now found strong evidence of this cheating.  Focusing on the interaction between nitrogen-fixing bacteria, or rhizobia, and their legume hosts spanning about 530 miles of California habitat, the researchers found that natural selection in their study populations favors cheating rhizobia.

Read the full story here.

CEPCEB 16th Annual Symposium and Awards Ceremony

CEPCEB celebrated its 16th Annual Symposium and Awards Ceremony on November 30, 2018.

Christina Smolke, Professor of Bioengineering, and by courtesy, of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, served as the Distinguished Noel T. Keen Lecturer. Christina’s research focuses on developing modular genetic platforms for programming information processing and control functions in living systems, and she presented the talk “Biosynthesis of Complex Plant-Derived Natural Product”.

This half-day event also included talks by CEPCEB’s faculty, including Hailing Jin (“Cross-Kingdom RNAi and small RNA trafficking between plant and fungal pathogens”); S. Hollis Woodward (“Bumble bee nutritional ecophysiology: considering floral rewards from the pollinator perspective”); Dan Koenig (“Plant genome evolution”); Wenbo Ma (“Citrus Huanglongbing: what can we learn from pathogen effectors”); and Ian Wheeldon (“Design and validation of a genome-wide CRISPR screen for the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica”).

As always, a true highlight of the day was the award presentations to our junior researchers! Simran Sandhu of the Linda Walling and Peter Atkinson labs received the Neil Campbell Undergraduate Student Award For Outstanding Research. Kelly Clark of the Wenbo Ma lab received the CEPCEB Graduate Student Award for Outstanding Research, and Honghong Wu of Juan Pablo Giraldo’s lab received the CEPCEB Post Doc Award for Outstanding Research.

This year’s special event ended with a post-symposium reception.