2001 Interns

Dr. Shunhong Dai and Jennifer Bick 
Screening for pure transgenic lines of Arabidopsis and rice:
Jennifer’s project addressed the function of RF2a, a protein in rice that regulates the activity of genes in the phloem cells but also serves to activate the promoter sequence of a disease-causing virus in rice. She screened transgenic plants containing a genetic sequence that either over-expresses or suppresses the synthesis of RF2a. These pure transgenic lines of the experimental plants will be used to study the function of RF2a and to identify the genes that RF2a regulates. Knowing the way RF2a works in the cell will aid in understanding the mechanism of virus infection and lead to new ways to control virus disease in plants. 

Chris Happel and Dr. Erik Nielsen 
Methods for purification and identification of Rab7-interacting proteins:
Chris isolated one of the proteins that regulate membrane trafficking, a protein called Rab7. Once isolated, Rab7 was used to grab other protein molecules from plant extracts. The plant proteins that Rab7 bound are "effector" proteins that normally interact with Rab7 in the cell. By purifying these effectors, Chris will facilitate further study on their properties. Such experimentation advances Dr. Nielsen’s overall goal of understanding the principles that control the movement of cellular membranes and ultimately regulate the developmental processes of plants. 

Dr. Nigel Taylor and Karen Kraus 
Cassava improvement:
Karen worked on a project designed to facilitate improvement of cassava, the most important source of food in the tropics after rice and maize. She investigated three components of the genetic engineering process in order to aid in the introduction of useful genes into cassava. Optimizing the experimental conditions for introducing useful genes into cassava plants will aid in the improvement of this important food crop. 

Dr. Karel Schubert and Marc Sattovia 
PABA synthase assay:
Marc investigated the enzymatic pathway that plants use to produce folate, an essential vitamin which is commonly deficient in the human diet. Marc began by developing biochemical assays for PABA synthase, an enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of a precursor to folate. Once the assay was functioning, he measured the levels of the enzyme in different plant sources to identify where it is most abundant in plants. Understanding the folate synthesis pathway will pave the way for the engineering of plants with higher amounts of folate or plants in which folate is more readily absorbed by the body.