In The News

Two papers published in PLoS ONE describe Brachypodium distachyon stem anatomy and growth rhythms

As an MCB graduate student in the Hazen Lab, Dominick Matos made several key discoveries. First he described the development of stem internodes. This is a key region of energy crops that accounts for a majority of the harvestable biomass. While the arrangement of vascular bundles varies among grasses, the anatomy of the vascular bundles themselves is very similar. By making observations over time, it was noted that the vascular bundles are the first to mature followed by non-vascular fiber cells. The results of these studies are described in PLoS ONE. Dominick and colleagues also measured stem and leaf development within the course of a day. Here they developed a time lapse imaging systems and measure leaf length under various conditions. Unlike arabidopsis and other dicots, B. distachyon did not exhibit circadian clock or photo cycles regulated growth. These results suggest that grasses have a very different mechanism for regulating time of day specific growth. The results of these studies are described in PLoS ONE.

International Brachypodium conference in Modena Italy demonstrates great utility of the research model

Following the prelude workshop in 2011 at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Versailles France, the 1st International Brachypodium Conference was held in the hometown of Enzo Ferrari in Modena Italy. Scientists from nineteen countries gathered - and at one point evacuated due to an earthquake - to discuss research progress in the genus Brachypodium. Former UMass postdoc Karen Sanguinet, now at Iwate University, communicated her root hairless mutant. Graduate student Pubudu Handakumbura described the functional characterization of a MYB transcription factor that activates cell wall thickening. Among others, Sam Hazen detailed behavior in brachy that is clearly distinct from that of arabidopsis and other dicots. Several groups professed the usefulnes of the model to study cereal pathogens and other attributes of growth and development. Also noteworthy is the development of B. sylvaticum as a to to study perennialism.

The 2012 Best Talk Award at the Life Sciences Graduate Student Symposium goes to Pubudu Handakumbura

Graduate students from eight UMass life sciences graduate programs presented their research at The Second Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium. The 2012 Best Talk Award went to Pubudu Handakumbura, who presented a talk titled, "BdMYB48 directly controls the accumulation of biomass in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon."

Four Consortium scientists invited to present findings at Plant & Animal Genome XXI Conference

In many areas of the life sciences, genomics is a key tool used to address important questions in biology and agriculture scientists are leading the way. The annual Plant & Animal Genome Conference is the largest Ag-Genomics meeting in the world with four UMass Brachypodium Consortium investigators presenting there this winter. At the Brachypodium Genomics workshop, Dr. Elsbeth Walker will tell of progress in understanding the uptake and transport of an important nutrient, iron. Dr. Sam Hazen will present results on the study of growth and biofuel feedstock quality in Brachypodium at the Bioenergy Grass Genomics workshop. Offering incite in the exciting area of meta-genomics, Dr. Jeff Blanchard will discuss global warming and forest soil microbiomes as part of the Ecological Genomics workshop. A leading investigator of Brachypodium population genetics, Dr. Ana Caicedo, will enlighten the Weedy and Invasive Plant Genomics workshop on the evolution of weeds.

The U.S. Department of Energy awards Baskin grant to study cellulose, the most abundant polymer on Earth, in Brachypodium

Biology professor Tobias Baskin has received two new grant awards. He received a $510,000 grant from U.S. Department of Energy (Office of Basic Energy Sciences) for a project entitled "Cellulose and the Control of Growth Anisotropy". This award is a competitive renewal for an on-going project that attempts to understand how the mechanical properties of the cell wall are established by Brachypodium distachyon and how these properties influence the fundamental process of growth.