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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Discovery of Bioactive Natural Products and their Biosynthetic Pathways from Diverse Plant Species in Culture

Plants are capable of producing a great diversity of relatively small organic chemicals that are called “secondary”, or, more recently, “specialized” metabolites, because they are not involved in central metabolism (Gang, 2005; Weng and Noel, 2012). Currently, well over 200,000 distinct molecules are known to be produced by plants and found to serve many important roles. As pigments, scents, and flavors they attract pollinators and seed dispersers (Gang, 2005).

Dormancy Release and Apical Dominance in Postharvest Potato: The Role of Auxin and Programmed Cell Death in Sprouting Induction

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is an important crop in the United States and approximately 38,000 tons were produced in Massachusetts in 2006, with a value of $7.5M (National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA). About 92-percent of the Massachusetts crop is consumed fresh or marketed as processed products, while 8-percent is re-used as seed tubers. Tuber sprouting during storage, caused by dormancy release of tuber buds, leads to undesirable loss of weight, turgidity and texture alterations.

Gene-Silencing-Based High-Throughput Identification of Genes Required for the Nitrogen-Fixing Symbiosis

Unique among crop species, legumes produce their own nitrogen nutrient through a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria collectively known as rhizobia. This nitrogen-fixing symbiosis is a complex system, and currently we know too few of the molecular players involved. This project will optimize two methods to reduce the activity of a given gene, and use these methods to screen for legume genes required for the function of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis.

Plant Parasitic Nematode Management as a Component of Sustainable Soil Health

The recent removal of fenamiphos from availability leaves golf course superintendents with no effective management for plant parasitic nematodes. Fenamiphos was the only effective nematicide registered for use on golf greens in the United States. However, the LD50 of fenamiphos is in the single digits and therefore difficult and risky to applicators and non-target organisms.  There have been a number of commercially-available products and experimental products offered as fenamiphos-alternatives.

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