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Quantitative plant biology is an interdisciplinary field that builds on a long history of biomathematics and biophysics. Today, thanks to high spatiotemporal resolution tools and computational modelling, it sets a new standard in plant science. Acquired data, whether molecular, geometric or mechanical, are quantified, statistically assessed and integrated at multiple scales and across fields. They feed testable predictions that, in turn, guide further experimental tests. Quantitative features such as variability, noise, robustness, delays or feedback loops are included to account for the inner dynamics of plants and their interactions with the environment. Here, we present the main features of this ongoing revolution, through new questions around signalling networks, tissue topology, shape plasticity, biomechanics, bioenergetics, ecology and engineering. In the end, quantitative plant biology allows us to question and better understand our interactions with plants. In turn, this field opens the door to transdisciplinary projects with the society, notably through citizen science.
The hemlock woolly adelgid (Hemiptera: Adelgidae: Adelges tsugae Annand) is an invasive insect, introduced from Japan to eastern North America, where it causes decline and death of hemlock trees. There is a closely related lineage of A. tsugae native to western North America. To inform classical biological control of A. tsugae in the eastern USA, the density and phenology of three native western adelgid specialist predators, Leucopis argenticollis (Zetterstedt), Le. piniperda (Malloch) (Diptera: Chamaemyiidae), and Laricobius nigrinus Fender (Coleoptera: Derodontidae), were quantified in the Pacific Northwest. Infested branches were collected from western hemlock (Pinaceae: Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.) at four sites around the Puget Sound, Washington and three sites in Oregon. Immature Leucopis were identified to species using DNA barcodes. Leucopis argenticollis was roughly twice as abundant as Le. piniperda. Laricobius nigrinus larvae were more abundant than the two species of Leucopis during the egg stage of the first adelgid generation, but Leucopis were present as feeding larvae during the second adelgid generation when La. nigrinus was aestivating in the soil, resulting in Leucopis being more abundant than La. nigrinus across the entire sampling period. Adelges tsugae and La. nigrinus densities were not correlated, while A. tsugae and Leucopis spp. densities were positively correlated. Leucopis spp. and La. nigrinus densities were negatively correlated. These results support the complementary use of La. nigrinus and the two Leucopis species for biological control of A. tsugae in the eastern USA, and point to the need for further investigation of spatial and temporal niche partitioning among the three predator species.
The rocky shores of the north-east Atlantic have been long studied. Our focus is from Gibraltar to Norway plus the Azores and Iceland. Phylogeographic processes shape biogeographic patterns of biodiversity. Long-term and broadscale studies have shown the responses of biota to past climate fluctuations and more recent anthropogenic climate change. Inter- and intra-specific species interactions along sharp local environmental gradients shape distributions and community structure and hence ecosystem functioning. Shifts in domination by fucoids in shelter to barnacles/mussels in exposure are mediated by grazing by patellid limpets. Further south fucoids become increasingly rare, with species disappearing or restricted to estuarine refuges, caused by greater desiccation and grazing pressure. Mesoscale processes influence bottom-up nutrient forcing and larval supply, hence affecting species abundance and distribution, and can be proximate factors setting range edges (e.g., the English Channel, the Iberian Peninsula). Impacts of invasive non-native species are reviewed. Knowledge gaps such as the work on rockpools and host–parasite dynamics are also outlined.
Background: Heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in the synaptic scaffolding gene SHANK2 are strongly associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, their impact on the function of human neurons is unknown. Derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from affected individuals permits generation of live neurons to answer this question. Methods: We generated iPSCs by reprogramming dermal fibroblasts of neurotypic and ASD-affected donors. To isolate the effect of SHANK2, we used CRISPR/Cas9 to knock out SHANK2 in control iPSCs and correct a heterozygous nonsense mutation in ASD-affected donor iPSCs. We then derived cortical neurons from SOX1+ neural precursor cells differentiated from these iPSCs. Using a novel assay that overcomes line-to-line variability, we compared neuronal morphology, total synapse number, and electrophysiological properties between SHANK2 mutants and controls. Results: Relative to controls, SHANK2 mutant neurons have increased dendrite complexity, dendrite length, total synapse number (1.5-2-fold), and spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic current (sEPSC) frequency (3-7.6-fold). Conclusions: ASD-associated heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in SHANK2 increase synaptic connectivity among human neurons by increasing synapse number and sEPSC frequency. This is partially supported by increased dendrite length and complexity, providing evidence that SHANK2 functions as a suppressor of dendrite branching during neurodevelopment.
Twin pregnancies discordant for neural tube defects (NTD) is a management dilemma. Risks of preterm delivery from polyhydramnios must be balanced with the risks of selective termination (ST) of the anomalous fetus. We investigated the prevalence of twin pregnancies discordant for NTD and the rate of pregnancy complications in our institution over a 10-year period. Cases were obtained by searching the hospital ultrasound database and findings were confirmed by expert review of ultrasound images. Outcomes of ST and expectant management were assessed. Each unaffected co-twin was assigned to three consecutive twin pregnancy controls matched by chorionicity and maternal age. Primary outcome was birth before 34 weeks’ gestation. Secondary outcomes were small for gestational age, mode of delivery, neonatal unit admission, and neonatal death. In total, 13 pregnancies were identified as potential cases. Of these, 11 were included in the analysis: 9 dichorionic diamniotic and 2 monochorionic diamniotic twins. Seven cases had ST and four were managed expectantly. We found 100% (4/4) of expectantly managed pregnancies delivered <34 weeks compared with 14% (1/7) of the ST group (p = .015). Polyhydramnios complicated three expectantly managed pregnancies and one pregnancy in the ST group. The birthweight SD score of all unaffected co-twins was ≥-2. The case–control analysis showed a higher rate of polyhydramnios in twin pregnancies discordant for NTD compared with controls, but little evidence for differences between groups in delivery rates <34 weeks, birthweight, neonatal unit admission, or neonatal death. ST warrants serious consideration to avoid potential complications to the unaffected co-twin.
Accurate models of X-ray absorption and re-emission in partly stripped ions are necessary to calculate the structure of stars, the performance of hohlraums for inertial confinement fusion and many other systems in high-energy-density plasma physics. Despite theoretical progress, a persistent discrepancy exists with recent experiments at the Sandia Z facility studying iron in conditions characteristic of the solar radiative–convective transition region. The increased iron opacity measured at Z could help resolve a longstanding issue with the standard solar model, but requires a radical departure for opacity theory. To replicate the Z measurements, an opacity experiment has been designed for the National Facility (NIF). The design uses established techniques scaled to NIF. A laser-heated hohlraum will produce X-ray-heated uniform iron plasmas in local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) at temperatures
eV and electron densities
. The iron will be probed using continuum X-rays emitted in a
diameter source from a 2 mm diameter polystyrene (CH) capsule implosion. In this design,
of the NIF beams deliver 500 kJ to the
mm diameter hohlraum, and the remaining
directly drive the CH capsule with 200 kJ. Calculations indicate this capsule backlighter should outshine the iron sample, delivering a point-projection transmission opacity measurement to a time-integrated X-ray spectrometer viewing down the hohlraum axis. Preliminary experiments to develop the backlighter and hohlraum are underway, informing simulated measurements to guide the final design.