In The News

Some brachy strains are more easily converted to ethanol than others

UMass Brachypodium Consortium microbiologists and plant biologists teamed up to develop an assay to measure the feedstock quality of plant biomass. Clostridium phytofermentans is a soil bacterium isolated from Harvard Forest in Massachusetts by Tom Warnick and Sue Leschine. Remarkable characteristics of this bacterium include the ability to degrade essentially all plant polysaccharides and produce copious amount of ethanol. The Hazen lab demonstrated that some mutants of the energy crop sorghum were converted to ethanol more quickly than normal varieties. They also showed similar differences in ethanol production in the energy crop shrub willow and among different accession of Brachypodium distachyon. This approach is now being used to characterize mutants and genetic mapping populations and potentially energy crop breeding programs.

Brachypodium expert Ludmila Tyler joins UMass Consortium

Dr. Ludmila Tyler joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Consortium beginning this year, 2012. She hales from Dr. John Vogel’s USDA laboratory, perhaps the most prolific B. distachyon group in the world. She is a leading expert in the field of trait and genetic diversity found within the species and managed a project conducted by the DOE – Joint Genome Institute to sequence the genomes of over 50 different strains. At UMass, Dr. Tyler will continue to explore bioenergy-relevant crop traits using natural and induced genetic variation in B. distachyon.

US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute and UMass initiate project to develop biofuel research tools

This venture will create a collection of grass transcription factor genes to facilitate energy crop research using the model system Brachypodium distachyon. Transcription factors are proteins that regulate gene expression, and the B. distachyon transcription factors targeted in this project are implicated in grass cell wall biosynthesis and the regulation of growth and biomass accumulation. Samuel Hazen and collaborators Todd Mockler at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Steve Kay at the University of California San Diego will use this project as the cornerstone of a new high-throughout platform for analyzing protein-DNA interactions for the purpose of understanding important traits in grass species.

Two consortium labs storm Versailles to present their research on Brachypodium cell wall biosynthesis

The 1st European Brachypodium Workshop took place October 19-21 at the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Versailles France. More than 150 scientists using B. distachyon as a research tool gathered from all corners of the world to share their experiences and results. A postdoctoral fellow from the Baskin laboratory, Karen Sanguinet Osmont, described her research on Cellulose biosynthesis and growth anisotropy. Sam Hazen described the functional characterization of candidate cell wall genes. A complete listing of the abstracts is available at the conference website. The workshop is expected to occur every two years and will be billed as the "International Brachypodium Workshop" from now on. The Brachypodium Consortium at UMass hopes to host the meeting in 2015.

Welcome Microbiologist Dr. Kristen DeAngelis to the Brachypodium Consortium

Dr. Kristen DeAngelis is the newest member of the Department of Microbiology. Prior to arriving in Amherst she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Joint BioEnergy Institute and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Research projects in her lab are aimed at understanding the (1) effect of climate change on soil carbon storage in the rhizosphere, and (2) applying anaerobic bacterial decomposition to biofuels development. The rhizosphere experiments aim to test the hypotheses that warming due to climate change has substantial effects on soil microbial community structure and function due to changes in plant carbon allocation to the roots. The manageable root system of Brachypodium distachyon owing to a rapid annual lifecycle serves as an excellent plant species for greenhouse studies of the rhizosphere.