Plant protein behaves like a prion

Kristopher Grunert/Corbis/VCG

Prions, the misfolded proteins that are known for causing degenerative illnesses in animals and humans, may have been spotted for the first time in plants.

Researchers led by Susan Lindquist report that they have found a section of protein in thale cress (Arabidopsis) that behaves like a prion when it is inserted into yeast.

Read the full story in Nature.

New GMO Rice Boasts Higher Yield, Less Global Warming

Roots of the GMO rice (above) have less methane-producing bacteria than control rice (below). Photo courtesy of Nature Publishing Group.

Rice plants try this one weird trick to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and increase yield.

A new genetically modified rice plant reduces emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. But the rice is at least 10 or 20 years from being available to farmers.

Read the full article in MIT Technology Review.

Pressed plants from long ago yield data on climate change

An herbarium specimen including seeds and leaves. Credit loscuadernosdejulia, flickr.

The primary act of social media—whether Twitter, tumblr, or Instagram—is virtual curation. Around the turn of the 20th century, though, the curation fad was literal: people roamed fields and forests to collect plant specimens and preserve them in plant libraries called herbaria. Now those old specimens are helping scientists reconstruct how trees have responded to shifts in the climate.

Scientists have recently gleaned data from New England herbarium specimens on historical timing of leaf-out—the time in spring when leaves unfurl, an important biological indicator of climate change.

Read the full article in Scope.