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In a new study published in PNAS, PRI scientists led by Horticulture-Plant Resilience Institute faculty member Robert VanBuren show that some grasses can survive typically lethal drought events through entering a dormant, desiccated state until the return of water. In the study, the team aimed to find what distinguishes this unique desiccation tolerance response from conserved drought responses observed in all grasses. They identified genomic and expression changes distinguishing the desiccation-tolerant grass Eragrostis nindensis from its sensitive crop relative Eragrostis tef and then expanded these analyses to include several cereals to identify broadly conserved and divergent patterns during water-deficit stress. They found that the distinction between drought and desiccation in grasses is subtle, where genes with essential roles in seed development are broadly expressed during water-deficit stress. They propose that many of the pathways enabling desiccation tolerance are of ancient origin with universal roles in water deficit, and are conserved across grasses.
Gregg is a University Distinguished Professor in the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory and the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and has been investigating the impact of heat stress on resistance in tomato to insect pests in the PRI.
MSU plant pathologist Brad Day has received a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to extend his study on how plants, at the cellular level, respond to disease threats.
When plants defend against a threat, their growth slows to a crawl. In their efforts to understand why, the Howe lab is constantly pushing the limits: how high can one tune plant defenses before a plant goes belly up?
Gregg Howe and Nate Havko find that in the heat, tomato plants can’t fight off the hungry tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta.