Inside Salk - October 2008 - page 11

Fast Facts
Joanne Chory
professor and director,
Plant Molecular and
Cell Biology Laboratory
• Investigator, Howard Hughes
Medical Institute
• Member of the National Academy
of Sciences
• Fellow of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences
• Fellow of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science
Joseph Ecker
professor
• Member of the National Academy of Sciences
• Recipient of the John J. Carty Award
for the Advancement of Science
• Recipient of the American Society
for Plant Biology Martin Gibbs Medal
• Scientific American 50 Research
Leader of the Year
Jeff Long
assistant professor
• Ray Thomas Edwards Foundation
Career Development Award
• Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship
JimUmen
assistant professor
• NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellow
• NSF Predoctoral Training Fellowship
Joseph Noel
professor, Jack H. Skirball Center for
Chemical Biology and Proteomics
• Investigator, Howard Hughes
Medical Institute
• NIH Postdoctoral Fellow
• National Science Foundation
Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellow
11
Inside Salk October 2008
COVER STORY
Chemical Biology and Proteomics at Salk.
His lab has applied its study of the chemical
factories that give rise to vital molecules
such as phytoalexins – natural forms of
anti-fungal and antimicrobial compounds
found inmany plants, including tobacco
and henbane.
Using structure analyses, Noel and his
colleagues discovered that changing only
nine of its 550 amino acids shifts the
production from tobacco-specific phytoalexins
to the henbane versions and vice versa.
Studies like these are helping the Noel lab
better understand how plants adjust their
chemical cocktail to adapt to their changing
environment andmay provide the necessary
tools to fine tune the production of natural
and environmentally friendly fungicides
and pesticides.
Within the Plant Biology lab itself, the lack
of dividing walls has historically been a major
contributor to the collaborative environment.
In the early 1990s, they functioned on the
“balloon principle,” Weigel says. If Chory and
Lamb hiredmore people, then his space would
shrink and vice versa.
Today, it’s not much different. The labs have
an open design, allowing scientists to tap into
the expertise of others around them – a major
advantage when you’re starting a new lab,
Umen says.
In the end, it comes down to the basic
principle of freely sharing knowledge with
the intent to propel science forward. If the
last 25 years of discoveries in plant biology
has taught scientists anything, it’s that the
We’re at the point now
with all these genome
sequences to really
begin understanding
the interactions of
organisms and how an
ecosystem forms.
– JOANNE CHORY
humble Arabidopsis plant has provided its
fair share to that knowledge base.
And it will continue to do so, say Salk plant
biologists, since what’s been discovered so far
equates to approximately 10 percent of what
they may ultimately learn from Arabidopsis.
“Understanding how plants grow and alter
their growth is important and I think Salk has
made a number of contributions in this area,”
Chory says. “We’re at the point now with all
these genome sequences to really begin
understanding the interactions of organisms
and how an ecosystem forms.
“To me, the future is going to be studying
organisms in the context of their environment –
environmental genetics, and plants will play a
key role in that.”
Joseph Noel
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