“Plants are amazing biochemists as they make hundreds of thousands of compounds, yet we don’t know how most of these chemical compounds are produced by the plant or the role of these metabolites in the natural history of species across the kingdom.”
Michigan State University professor of molecular biology and biochemistry Robert Last (above photo and quote) and his team of researchers recently received a $4.1M grant from the National Science Foundation to study Andean Tomatoes and the chemicals they naturally produce. Professor Last's research focuses on the tiny hairs on plants, called trichomes that are related to the plant's smell and taste through the sticky, pungent compounds they produce.
Understanding the full chemical and genetic makeup of the tomato plant, and especially its natural defenses, may lead to improvements in agricultural pest and disease control and higher crop yields.
The other members of Last's research team supported by the recent NSF funding are fellow members of MSU's AgBioResearch unit:
- Cornelius Barry, professor of horticulture
- A. Dan Jones, professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and chemistry and director of the mass spectrometry facility
A portion of the NSF grant will go toward funding the Plant Genomics@Michigan State summer research program for undergrads, a successful program for future plant geneticists now in its 6th year. MSU hosts 16 students from across the US from May to the end of July.
Last is also a lead researcher with the Solanum Trichome Project (STP), funded by the NSF Plant Genome Research Program two years in a row and focused on the tomato (solanum lycopersicum) and its close relatives. The University of Michigan and the University of Arizona are also collaborators on this project.
Other important trichome genetic research (specifically, sequencing large regions of the tomato and potato genomes) is being carried out at the SOL Genomics Network at Cornell University as part of the International Tomato Genome Sequencing Consortium. [Their photo below]
If you do molecular biology research at MSU, including chemists, geneticists, and life science researchers in any other field at Michigan State, please feel welcome to join us at the upcoming Biotechnology Calendar Inc. MSU BioResearch Product Faire™ Front Line Event on the East Lansing Campus this July 13. Find out about the latest molecular biology research products and equipment to help you get your work done fast and accurately and take advantage of networking opportunities other researchers and with vendors to keep them abreast of your specific laboratory needs.
If you are a molecular biology research supplies vendor, you definitely want to be at this first-ever BCI trade show event at Michigan State University to meet these scientists. This is a Front Line show this year, which is a streamlined event that provides easy access for researchers to view your products. Sign up for the free one-page funding and research report on Michigan State by clicking below.