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David Schaffer: Research that takes risks must be supported

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 07/29/2022 - 14:49
For the past 10 years, UC Berkeley’s Bakar Fellows Program has given researchers a platform to push the limits of STEM innovation and entrepreneurship
Categories: Science News

Three in Rausser College named UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellows

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 07/29/2022 - 11:33
Sather Gate July 29, 2022

David J.X. González, Alexander Huezo, and Jesús Martínez-Gómez are among the 2022-23 cohort of fellows. 

Human lung proteins can advance or thwart SARS-CoV-2 infections

Department of Bioengineering - Thu, 07/28/2022 - 19:24
A study led by Prof Patrick Hsu has identified specific proteins within our bodies that can promote or protect us from SARS-CoV-2 infections, potentially opening the door to new antiviral therapies. Notably, they showed that mucins -- the main component of mucus found in the lungs -- seem to help block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering cells.
Categories: Science News

New research identifies patterns of carbon accumulation in planted forests

College of Natural Resources - Thu, 07/28/2022 - 11:45
A thin row of trees line a dirt road in the mountains. A forest of green trees can be seen in the background. July 28, 2022

Research by former ESPM PhD student Jacob Bukoski and Professor Matthew D. Potts might serve as the building blocks for carbon sequestration studies.

UC Berkeley and Novartis extend Alliance to tackle “undruggable” disease targets

College of Natural Resources - Thu, 07/28/2022 - 09:20
A scientific illustration July 28, 2022

The research collaboration aims to unlock intractable drug targets, discover new therapeutic modalities, and accelerate discovery of novel medicines.

Why the largest fires aren't always the most devastating

College of Natural Resources - Tue, 07/26/2022 - 13:48
Forest burning and fire fighters are trying to exstinguish it. July 26, 2022

Professor Scott Stephens explains how high-severity fires have drastically changed their environment.

A visit to the lab with PhD candidate Luis Valentin-Alvarado

College of Natural Resources - Tue, 07/26/2022 - 13:25
Luis Valentin-Alvarado headshot under neon lights. July 26, 2022

Valentin-Alvarado breaks down his research for the Spanish-speaking community in this new video produced by Science at Cal

Heaviest neutron star to date is a ‘black widow’ eating its mate

UC Berkeley Science News - Tue, 07/26/2022 - 05:00
Observations of a faint, planet-size star allowed UC Berkeley and Stanford astronomers to weigh it’s millisecond pulsar companion. It may be close to the limit for a neutron star/pulsar.
Categories: Science News

Rausser College recognizes two retiring faculty members

College of Natural Resources - Mon, 07/25/2022 - 11:37
Split collage image. On left is Catherine Koshland. On the right is Joseph Napoli. July 25, 2022

We thank Professors Catherine Koshland and Joseph Napoli for their service to the University.

Understanding the function of plant diversity in wetland ecosystems

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 07/22/2022 - 11:16
A photo of a wetland ecosystem featuring a lake, green grasses, and brown hills. July 22, 2022

A first-of-its-kind analysis by ESPM Professor Iryna Dronova found that plant diversity plays a key role in improving seasonal biomass stability.

What makes Omicron more infectious than other COVID-19 variants?

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 07/22/2022 - 10:41
Labs at the Gladstone Institute and Berkeley's Innovative Genomics Institute used virus-like particles to identify which parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are responsible for its increased infectivity and spread.
Categories: Science News

Advocating for a toxin-free world

College of Natural Resources - Thu, 07/21/2022 - 13:59
Split collage image. On left is Mackenzie Feldman. On the right is an herbicide free campus logo. July 21, 2022

The Berkeley Food Institute speaks to ESPM alum Mackenzie Feldman about her work on pesticide reform and interest in food systems.

Fired up for the future

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 07/21/2022 - 12:34
FIRE Foundry aims to increase the diversity of fire crews and accelerate the adoption of advanced firefighting technologies
Categories: Science News

Rausser College launches Master of Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics program

College of Natural Resources - Wed, 07/20/2022 - 10:30
An instructor, Susie and a student reading a book. July 20, 2022

The new graduate program will prepare students for careers as dietitians.

Understanding Plant Immune Systems Informs the Past and the Future

College of Natural Resources - Mon, 07/18/2022 - 11:53
Headshot of Chandler Sutherland July 18, 2022

In a recent Wonderfest event, grad student Chandler Sutherland discusses plant and human immune systems, and how we can defend agricultural crops against disease.

CRISPR Crops: Food, Farms, and the Shape of Plants to Come

College of Natural Resources - Mon, 07/18/2022 - 11:51
Headshot of Evan Groover July 18, 2022

In a recent Wonderfest event grad student Evan Groover discussed how gene editing technology can meet the needs of a growing human population and a warming world.

Debunking the myths that discourage public funding of clean energy

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 07/15/2022 - 12:15
An aerial view solar panels against a background of green grass. July 15, 2022

New commentary led by ESPM Professor Jonas Meckling urges governments to spur decarbonization by moving beyond the myths surrounding public investment in clean energy that discourage the use of public funds.

How healthy soil can improve crop resilience

College of Natural Resources - Thu, 07/14/2022 - 09:01
July 14, 2022

A new BFI policy brief suggests better soil management may be the key to climate resilience and drought tolerance in crops.

The ultimate fate of a star shredded by a black hole

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 07/11/2022 - 09:38
By measuring the polarization of light emitted when a star is spaghettified, Berkeley astronomers deduce the shape of the debris cloud left behind
Categories: Science News

Understanding the “romantic journey” of plant reproduction

College of Natural Resources - Fri, 07/08/2022 - 16:27
[image caption]

A recent PMB study of the thale cress plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) has identified a previously unknown molecular process that serves as a method of communication during fertilization and reproduction. Photos courtesy of Chun Yan.

Mathew Burciaga

Researchers in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) have uncovered the intricate molecular processes that precede reproduction in flowering plants.

Published July 6 in Nature, the findings document a previously unknown molecular process that serves as a method of communication during fertilization. According to Professor Sheng Luan, chair of the PMB department and the paper’s senior author, the exact mechanism for signaling has previously eluded researchers.

“At the molecular level, this whole process is now more clear than ever before,” he said.

Sending Molecular "Love Notes"

Flowers reproduce sexually through pollination, a process that involves the transfer of pollen from a flower’s stamen (the male fertilizing organ) to the stigma on the pistil (the female reproductive organ). Once the pollen grain lodges on the stigma, a pollen tube grows from the pollen grain to an ovule to facilitate the transfer of sperm to the egg.

Luan said researchers have previously recorded the presence of calcium waves preceding the fertilization process and noted that “they knew the calcium signal is important but didn’t know exactly how it is produced.”

To analyze how the calcium wave was produced by the female cell, Luan and his co-authors introduced a biosensor to report calcium levels in the specific cell to look for signals from the male parts that trigger calcium waves.

[iframe caption]

Green calcium waves "pulse" in this recording provided by the Luan Lab.

They found that pollen tubes emit several small peptides—short chains of amino acids—that can be recognized by peptide receptors on the surface of the female cell. Once activated, these receptors recruit a calcium channel to produce a calcium wave that guides the pollen tube to the ovule and initiates fertilization.

“You could compare this to a delivery service,” Luan explained. “We know the small peptide molecule serves as a signal to the female part of the flower, almost like a knock on the door letting it know the pollen tube is here.”

The calcium waves ultimately cause the pollen tube to rupture and release the immobile sperm once it is inside the ovule, ensuring a successful fertilization process.

“In a way, they basically commit suicide to release the sperm,” Luan said. “Sometimes the female reproductive cell also dies in order to expose the egg so they can meet and produce new life. It’s kind of a romantic journey for plant reproduction.”

Reinventing Molecular Messaging

According to Luan, understanding the intricate molecular processes of fertilization may help improve the commercial yields in flowering plants. Other researchers or plant geneticists might use the findings to break the interspecies barrier, potentially opening the door to the creation of new hybrid crop species through cross-pollination.

But, in addition to the potential commercial application, these findings further highlight plants’ miraculous ability to communicate via molecular emissions. “From an evolutionary point of view, plants reinvented their own molecules specific to their unique communication process,” he added.

The calcium channels identified in this study are unique to plants, suggesting they invented a way to produce signals that are different than those found in animals. Luan said researchers have studied calcium channels for more than 30 years, uncovering how they confer resistance to powdery mildew (a fungal disease that affects a wide variety of plants) or enable mechanical sensing in root systems. 

Their biochemical role remained unknown until this study uncovered the specific channel activity. “Reinventing new channels to communicate in their own way, consistent with different lifestyles of plants and animals, is of general importance to biology,” Luan said.

Co-authors include Qifei Gao, Chao Wang, Yasheng Xi, and Qiaolin Shao, postdoctoral researchers in Luan’s Lab; and Legong Li, professor of biology at Capital Normal University in Beijing and a former postdoc in Luan lab.

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