Thoughts from the President

February 23, 2024 - Recent Publication Highlights

Dear Danforth Center Community,

One reason I periodically highlight a few research articles published by Danforth Center scientists is because it helps me dive deeper into what our teams are discovering and thinking about. Here are a few such articles that I enjoyed reading this week.

Murphy, K.M., Ludwig, E., Gutierrez, J., Gehan, M.A. (2024). Deep learning in image-based phenotyping. Annu. Rev. of Plant Biol. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-070523-042828.

This expansive review focuses on deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence using deep neural networks, to extract meaning from the fast amount of image data collected through phenotyping research. Teams here and elsewhere face unprecedented bottlenecks when analyzing massive datasets, and AI-based approaches are the only practical options to gain insights at scale. Katie and co-authors provide a great review of the progress, promise and challenges with deep learning for plant scientists.

Li, M., Liu, Z., Jiang, N., Laws, B., Tiskevich, C., Moose, S.P., Topp, C.N. (2024). Topological data analysis expands the genotype to phenotype map for 3D maize root system architecture. Frontiers Plant Sci. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2023.1260005.

Speaking of phenotyping, Mao Li and colleagues analyzed the genetic underpinnings of phenotypic variation of three-dimensional root characteristics between maize lines that differ in their nitrogen uptake and assimilation properties. This team is pushing the boundaries for how to use image-based phenotyping, mathematics and statistics to learn how plant roots take their shape. They demonstrate that the genetic basis for root architecture, and also the ways to describe and quantify root architecture, and far more complex than we currently understand.

Sankoh, A.F., Adjei, J., Roberts, D., Burch-Smith, T.M. (2024). Comparing methods for detection and quantification of plasmodesmal callose in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. Molec. Plant Microbe Interact. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-09-23-0152-SC.

Amie Sankoh and the Burch-Smith team are pioneers in discovering how plants transmit information, important molecules and invasive viruses between cells. For example, they are leading the way in showing how plasmodesmata (PD) – channels that connect adjacent cells in leaves and other organs – are controlled by deposition of callose (a carbohydrate polymer) when plants are responding to infection. This article compares different methods to rigorously quantify callose accumulation around the microscopic PD channels, and paves the way for deeper understanding of how the plant immune system works.

Congratulations to each co-author on these published studies. Well done!

Jim Carrington,
President and Chief Executive Officer

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