They are a major threat to global food security, says Sebastian Eves-van den Akker of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK.
Eves-van den Akker will speak on "Effector Gene Birth in Plant-Parasitic Nematodes: Furnishing the Immunity and Development-Altering 'Tool Box' " at the Wednesday, Jan. 22th seminar of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His seminar is from 4:10 to 5 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, UC Davis campus. Host: nematologist Shahid Siddique, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
In a recent publication in PLOS Genetics titled "Effector Gene Birth in Plant Parasitic Nematodes: Neofunctionalization of a Housekeeping Glutathione Synthetase Gene," Eves-van den Akker noted that "Plant parasitism has arisen four times independently within the phylum Nematoda, resulting in at least one parasite of every major food crop in the world. Some species within the most economically important order (Tylenchida) secrete proteins termed effectors into their host during infection to re-programme host development and immunity. The precise detail of how nematodes evolve new effectors is not clear."
He and his colleagues reconstructed the evolutionary history of a novel effector gene family. They showed that "during the evolution of plant parasitism in the Tylenchida, the housekeeping glutathione synthetase (GS) gene was extensively replicated. New GS paralogues acquired multiple dorsal gland promoter elements, altered spatial expression to the secretory dorsal gland, altered temporal expression to primarily parasitic stages, and gained a signal peptide for secretion. The gene products are delivered into the host plant cell during infection, giving rise to 'GS-like effectors.'"
"Our results demonstrate the re-purposing of an endogenous housekeeping gene to form a family of effectors with modified functions," Eves-van den Akker wrote. "We anticipate that our discovery will be a blueprint to understand the evolution of other plant-parasitic nematode effectors, and the foundation to uncover a novel enzymatic function."
Eves-van den Akker studied biology at the University of Leeds from 2007 to 2019. During his final year, in the lab of Professor P. E. Urwin, he became interested in plant-pathology, and "the fascinating and potentially useful abilities of plant-parasitic nematodes." From 2010 to 2014, he studied for a doctorate in plant-nematode “effectors,” jointly appointed between the University of Leeds and The James Hutton Institute.
In 2015, he was awarded a three-year Anniversary Future Leaders Fellowship from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. His fellowship was designed to understand the structural and molecular detail of nematode effector function.
That led to a discovery that provided what he calls "the first tangible insight into the regulatory processes underlying plant-nematode parasitism," and that in turn, resulted in his five-year BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship in 2018. With this second fellowship, he established a research group at the University of Cambridge and was elected Fellow of King's College.
Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, is coordinating the winter quarter seminars, all held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. The remaining schedule:
Wednesday, Jan. 29
Elizabeth Crone, Tufts University, Medford, Mass.
Topic: "Why Are Monarch Butterflies Declining in the West?"
Hosts: Neal Williams, professor; Rachel Vannette, assistant professor
Wednesday, Feb. 5
Andrew Young, postdoctoral scholar at California Department of Food and Agriculture, Pest Diagnostic
Topic: Syrphids (title to be announced)
Host: Lynn Kimsey, professor and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Kevin Rice, University of Missouri, Columbia
Topic: "Lasers, Drones, and Growth Promoting Fungus: New Technologies for IPM"
Host: Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor
Wednesday, Feb. 19
Mercedes Burns, University of Maryland,Baltimore County
Topic: (pending) She studies evolutionary ecology of reproductive traits and behaviors, sexual conflict, reproductive polymorphism, arthropod biology
Host: Jason Bond, professor and Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics
Wednesday, Feb. 26:
Faculty Flash Talks (featuring series of faculty members, including Rachel Vannette, Ian Grettenberger, Shahid Siddique, Geoffrey Attardo, Jason Bond)
Wednesday, March 4
Brendon Boudinot, doctoral candidate, Phil Ward lab, exit seminar
Topic: "Morphology and Evolution of the Insects, and the Ancestors of the Ants"
Host: Phil Ward, professor
Abrieux, an international scholar from France in the Joanna Chiu lab, is one of two recipients of an Innovator Fellow Award from the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH).
“Each year, entrepreneurially minded PhD or postdoctoral students are invited to join venture capital partners onsite to gain first-hand experience on what it takes to have a successful startup, then apply that knowledge to develop and de-risk their own potential technology, product or process at UC Davis,” according to an IIFH news release.
Abrieux, whose project is titled “Improving Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Practices with Biotechnology,” is working with The Production Board (TPB), a San Francisco-based technology incubator and investment holding company that aims to improve the efficiency and economics of global food and agriculture markets.
Recipient Tawny Scanlan, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in animal biology, is researching “Enhancing Production Efficiency and Sustainability in Aquaculture” and working with Food for Thought Worldwide Ventures (FTW), a San Francisco-based early-stage venture fund investing in breakthrough hardware, software and biotech solutions in the worldwide food system.
Abrieux is utilizing his expertise in insect physiology, behavioral analysis and molecular biology to tackle problems related to agriculture and enhance food security. He seeks to develop innovative approaches in biotechnology to improve IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solution and ensure crop production sustainability.
Abrieux received his doctorate in biology from Angers University, western France, where investigated the role of hormones and biogenic amines in the behavioral response to the sex pheromone in the noctuid Agrotis ipsilon. He joined the Chiu lab in the spring of 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow.
In the Chiu lab, he explores the interactions between the clock and endocrine system underlying seasonal adaptation in the pest, the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. “I am particularly interested in developing integrative approaches to better understand how physiological state and behavior could be modulate at both transcriptional and translational levels and facilitate insect adaptability to changing environments.” (He presented a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on "Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Photoperiodic Time Measurement in Drosophila melanogaster" in February 2018.)
“Understanding insects," Abrieux says, "helps us recognize how their presence influences the greater ecosystem and agriculture." Scientists estimate the worldwide impact of agricultural pests at almost one quarter of annual losses (more than $100 billion market value), amounting to $40 billion per year in the United States alone. Thus, improving IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solutions, he points out, could result in competitive biopesticide alternatives for growers to reduce economic losses without changing crop varieties or relying on more harmful insecticides.
"I am convinced that biotechnologies can have an important and beneficial impact on society,” Abrieux says, “and the likelihood to facilitate progress is considerably increased through collaborative efforts between actors from diverse domains of expertise.”
His supervisor, associate professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, commented: “The Production Board Fellowship represents a perfect opportunity for Antoine to advance his understanding of the food security market and current needs, and to develop entrepreneurship ideas that he can take with him to the next stage of his career."
Abrieux, fascinated with insects since his childhood, maintains a photography website, including macro images of insects at https://antoineabrieux.wixsite.com/antoine-abrieux/portfolio.
(Note: UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health contributed to this piece.)
Rome wasn't built in a day.
But learning how to make mead?
You can learn the process from "honey to the bottle all in one day" on Thursday, Jan. 23 at the University of California, Davis.
Mead, the world's oldest alcoholic beverage, is a fermented blend of pure honey and water. Meadmakers often add fruits and spices to produce a dry, semi-sweet, sweet or even a sparkling mead, according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Harris just announced that the popular Mead Making Bootcamp course on Jan. 23 will take place from 8 to 4:30 p.m. in the LEED Platinum Teaching and Research Winery, located near the Honey and Pollination Center on Old Davis Road.
Under the direction of Chik Brenneman, former winemaker for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology along with meadmakers Lily Weichberger of the Oran Mor Meadery, and Dan Slort of Strad Meadery), students will learn how to make mead: "from honey to the bottle all in one day."
The hands-on course, limited to 40, will follow a basic mead recipe. The participants will be divided into small learning groups of 5 to 6 people, each with its own UC Davis leader. Finally, students will bottle the mead made in previous workshops.
As Harris earlier told us: "More and more people are becoming familiar with mead right now. Meaderies are opening at the rate of one every three days here in the United States. And there are quite a few new ones right here in California!"
Reservations for the bootcamp course are underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/591. The fee is $225 per person. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.
While you're at it--registering for the bootcamp course--you can also enroll in two courses that follow:
For more information contact Harris at email@example.com or events manager Liz Luu at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're having pumpkin pie or butternut squash this Thanksgiving, thank the squash bee.
Squash bees are specialists (not generalists) that pollinate only the cucurbits or squash family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes pumpkins, squash, gourds, cucumbers and zucchini.
Last summer we saw dozens of Peponapis pruinosa pollinating our squash and cucumbers. Peponapis pruinosa is a species of solitary bee in the tribe Eucerini, the long-horned bees.
"Isn't that a honey bee?" a friend asked.
"No, it's a squash bee; it's smaller than the honey bee."
"Never heard of it."
Other factoids, as shared with us by the late Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis:.
- Both the males and females are golden brown with a fuzzy yellow thorax. The males have a yellow spot on their face.
- Males sleep in the blossoms at night. There they wait for the females to arrive.
- Squash bees are early risers (they rise before the sun does). They begin pollinating the blossoms as soon as they open in the morning. Other bee species, such as honey bees, don't visit the flowers so early. The squash blossoms close after several hours so there's a limited amount of pollination time.
If you're aiming to photograph them, get there early. If you don't, you will find the blossoms closing.
Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand and Australia, but New Zealand claims the manuka honey trademark. Australia says that's not fair. They want to use it, too.
Manuka is to honey what Château Cheval Blanc 1947 is to wine connoisseurs. Buy a bottle of that wine and you'll fork over $304,375. Buy an eight-ounce jar of manuka honey and you'll lighten your wallet by $1790.
Bees make manuka honey from Leptospermum scoparium, also known as "The New Zealand tea tree" or more accurately, "bush." The honey prized for its health benefits, including its antibacterial and antifungal properties and anti-inflammation qualities.
According to webmd.com, "The major antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG). MG is a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities. In manuka honey, MG comes from the conversion of another compound, dihydroxyacetone, that is found in high concentration in the nectar of manuka flowers."
"The higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect. Honey producers have a scale for rating the potency of manuka honey. The rating is called UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. The UMF rating reflects the concentration of MG. To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF. Honey at or above that level is marketed as UMF Manuka Honey or Active Manuka Honey.
reports that New Zealand's honey producers have long argued that it's the only country that can produce true manuka honey, because it's the only place where the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) is found. Australian manuka, they argue, comes from other different-but-related species. (The New Zealanders have previously suggested that the Australian version should be called tea tree honey.)recently wrote in Wine and Food: "The New York Times
Manuka honey? Tea tree honey?
Well, we just think of the bees and that beautiful plant.
For five years, we grew a Leptospermum scoparium keatleyi, the tallest and rangiest variety of the Leptospermum scopariums. It bears our family name, Keatley; New Zealand sea skipper/horticulturist Capt. Edward John "Ted" Keatley (1875-1962) discovered it and named the variety "keatleyi."
Factoids: According to the Maritime Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, Capt. Keatley once commanded 28 of the Northern Steam Ship Company's vessels. He also was considered an authority on the flora of the Auckland province. In June 1961, the Royal Horticulture Society awarded Capt. Keatley the "Award of Merit" for his discovery of the keatleyi, or "royal pink manuka."Sadly our "Keatley" plant didn't make it past five years. But generations of honey bees nectared on the blossoms while the plant thrived in our yard.