[PSC Seminar Series]2015-05-18
Time: 1:30-4:30 pm, May 18th, 2015 (Monday)
Host PI: Prof. Jianming Li
Venue: PSC auditorium
1st Speaker: Prof. Stephen H. Howell, Iowa State University, USA
Title: The Unfolded Protein Response in Plants – Sensing and Responding to Stress
Time: 1:30 pm, May 18th, 2015 (Monday)
Prof. Howell has a long distinguished career as an internationally renowned plant molecular biologist. Throughout his 50-year long career, Prof. Howell’s research interests were centered on several major topics, including cell cycle in Chlamydomonas, plant DNA viruses, gene regulation, and plant growth and stress tolerance. He has authored a total of 138 research papers, review articles, and book chapters, including 3 annual review articles (Howell 1982 Annu Rev Plant Physiol 33:609, Collmer & Howell 1992 Annu Rev Phytopath, and Howell 2013 Annu Rev Plant Biol 64:477) and authored/edited three books. His research on the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) in the 1980s made several groundbreaking discoveries that had a significant impact on plant molecular biology, plant genetics, and plant biotechnology. In 1980, Prof. Howell and his research team at the University of California San Diego were the first to introduce biologically active recombinant DNAs of CaMV into plants. In 1986, Prof. Howell and his colleagues at UCSD successfully generated the first “glowing” plant using the firefly luciferase, which was later used by hundreds of plant biology laboratories as a fluorescent marker to study gene regulation or to screen mutants of many important physiological processes. His CaMV research also made significant contribution to our understanding of the CaMV 35S promoter, which has been widely used to overexpress genes of interest for basic plant biology research and in almost all transgenic crops around the globe.
Another area of Prof. Howell’s research that had a significant impact on plant biology came from his study of plant salt tolerance in the late 2010s, which discovered two branches of the plant unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway (summarized in his 2013 Annu Rev Plant Biol article), a signaling process that links increased accumulation of misfolded/unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum to increased nuclear transcription of genes encoding proteins that repair and/or remove misfolded/non-folded proteins. The UPR is a well-studied cellular process in yeast and mammalian systems and has been recently acknowledged by the Lasker Award and the Shaw Price (the “Nobel of the east”) given to Profs. Peter Walter and Kazutoshi Mori; however, almost nothing was known about this signaling pathway in a plant system before 2005. The UPR study from Prof. Howell’s lab has significantly advanced our understanding of the plant UPR pathway. Given that the plant UPR pathway was known to be activated by various environmental stresses that negatively affect crop growth, knowledge gained from Prof. Howell’s research could lead to novel strategies for creating stress-tolerant crop plants, which will certainly have a major impact on future agriculture.
Prof. Howell’s contribution to the plant molecular biology field is not just limited to his numerous scientific discoveries. During his 50-year research career, he has trained a total of 57 graduate students/postdoctoral research associates, including Prof. Manuel Ares, Jr, a Distinguished Professor of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology at UC Santa Cruz and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor (2002-2006), Prof. Stanton Gelvin, the Edwin Umbarger Distinguished Professor of Biology at Purdue and a world authority on Agrobacterium, and David Ow, an internationally-renowned expert on plant biotechnology and a “1000-plan” investigator at the South China Botanical Garden. Prof. Howell was also credited for his successfully establishment of a plant molecular biology program between 1988 and 1996 at the Boyce Thompson Institute, which recruited Prof. David Stern, the current BTI president, and Prof. Robert Last, the Barnett Rosenberg Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University. Because of his international reputation, Prof. Howell served as the second Editor-in-Chief for the international journal Plant Molecular Biology between 1998 and 2001 and was the divisional director of Molecular and Cell Biology at National Science Foundation to promote the federal funding for the basic plant biology research. Prof. Howell also served on the Public Affairs Committee of the American Society of Plant Biologists between 2002 and 2008.
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2nd Speaker: Prof. Yanhai Yin, Iowa State University, USA
Title: Molecular Mechanisms and Transcriptional Network for Brassinosteroid-Regulated Plant Growth and Stress Responses
Time: 3:00 pm, May 18th, 2015 (Monday)
Dr. Yanhai Yin obtained his PhD degree under the guidance from Prof. Roger Beachy (who also trained Dr. Zhang-Liang Chen, a very famous scientist-politician in China) at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California and received his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Joanne Chory at the Salk Institute. He was credited for the discovery of the Arabidopsis protein BES1 that helps plant cells to transmit the plant steroid hormone (wildly known as brassinosteroid or BR) signal from the cell surface into the nucleus where BES1 and its closest homolog BZR1 regulate expression of thousands of plant genes critical for normal plant growth development. Through a fantastic biochemical/genetic investigation, Dr. Yin demonstrated that BES1 is a novel plant-specific transcription factor that can directly bind to regulatory DNA fragments to turn on/off target genes inside the plant nucleus. Since establishing his independent laboratory at Iowa State University, Dr. Yanhai Yin's research has been focused on understanding how plant growth and development are controlled by internal growth regulators (hormones) in response to environmental cues, focusing on brassinosteroids and a new phosphorylation-mediated signaling pathway (represented by the Arabidopsis HERCULES receptor kinases) that promotes plant growth and stress tolerance. His laboratory is currently taking multidisciplinary approaches including genetics, genomics, biochemistry, cell biology, phenomics and computational modeling to define the molecular mechanisms and genetic networks through which the plant steroid hormone and other regulators control gene expression and plant growth, development and responses to environment.
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All are welcome!