FLOWER POWER: The insignificant little plant, Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress, is a boon to biological research.

FLOWER POWER: The insignificant little plant, Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress, is a boon to biological research. And even the most ordinary flower looks beautiful through the eyes of a microscope, does it not?

β€’ Those of us focused on understanding human disease don’t pay much attention to research in plants. But plant biologists have taught us about micro RNAs, transposons, active demethylation, ‘decoy’ RNAs, and more. The wonderful world of genetics was first revealed through the patterns of inheritance of sweet peas, by one Austrian friar named Gregor Mendel.

β€’ That’s why I go to a plant conference once every few years. I never know what I may pick up and plant biologists are gracious enough to listen to our animal work.

#floralfriday FloralFriday

Image: Mendel’s Dream Arabidopsis flower captured with confocal microscopy by Heiti Paves, Centre of Excellence ENVIRON, Estonia.

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74 Responses to FLOWER POWER: The insignificant little plant, Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress, is a boon to biological research.

  1. Wesley Yeoh says:


    I had to google up what the heck a confocal microscope was ^_^

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    Wesley Yeoh , basically a confocal microscope focuses laser beams on a very thin section of the specimen. This way, the image is super sharp. The optical planes slice their way through the thickness of the specimen and can be stacked back together digitally, to recreate a 3D object. It’s a great tool for our research!

  3. Rajini Rao says:


    Gnotic Pasta Great info, thanks! You see how insignificant the flower is? Yet it looks beautiful under the microscope πŸ™‚ That’s why science is so amazing!


    Arabidopsis was the first plant genome to be sequenced.


  4. nice information thanks


  5. thanks to share info about .

  6. Chad Haney says:


    And then there is pharmacognosy where we get clues for the next big drug, like resveratrol. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resveratrol

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    Excellent tie-in Gnotic Pasta ! Challenge Mahesh Sreekandath to bring Metallica into this!


    Plant genomes are usually unmanageably large..but Arabidopsis was chosen because it has one of the smallest genomes. It also has a short life cycle (~a month or so, I think), another convenience to the researcher.

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    Chad Haney , The resveratrol connection to aging tends to yo-yo with each study, but hey…to be on the safe side, drink more red wine πŸ˜‰

  9. Raj Singhani says:


    Really beautiful Rajini.. πŸ™‚

  10. Raj Singhani says:


    Hey Rajini..!! y dont u add me so that we can chat???


  11. This is absolutely gorgeous!

  12. Rajini Rao says:


    LOL, Gnotic Pasta !

  13. Chad Haney says:


    Rajini Rao that’s why resveratrol gets/got so much press. How can you go wrong with wine, I mean grape seed extract.

  14. Rajini Rao says:


    Yeah, it’s just like that purple Juicy Juice stuff that comes in little boxes with a straw..but for big people πŸ˜‰

  15. Chad Haney says:


    When my oldest nephew was still in pre-school when he asked my dad if he could taste his beer, except he called it juice. So we affectionately call it grandpa juice now. Grandpa likes his juice during football games, with popcorn of course.

  16. Rajini Rao says:


    Here is the closest our research has got to wine πŸ™‚ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=grape%20%20nhx1


    (My first grad student cloned the first NHX1 gene from yeast).

  17. Chad Haney says:


    Rajini Rao Tunisia? If they ever need help visualizing their results, just send me an invite :~).

  18. Rajini Rao says:


    I see the Tunisia connection in that paper..the first author must have gone back home. The senior author is at UC Davis, not exactly exotic. BTW, this is basically derivative stuff from what we published back in 1997/98 πŸ˜‰

  19. Chad Haney says:


    UC Davis isn’t too far from where my dad lives but Sacramento Valley is not my cup of tea.

  20. Rajini Rao says:


    You’re right, Gnotic Pasta ! I had not realized that. There are even publications in PubMed on the origin and genetics of Tunisian grapes. I’ve not had wine from Africa. South American Malbec on the other hand….mmm πŸ™‚

  21. Rajini Rao says:


    Mike Clancy , what a cool connection..thank you πŸ™‚ I’m going to insert the hashtag into the post (not sure if hashtags in the comment stream are searchable?)

  22. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Feisal Kamil , just did. How geeky to tag this microscopic image for floralfriday! πŸ™‚

  23. Rajini Rao says:


    Gnotic Pasta , that’s a great link for anyone curious about microscopy (Wesley Yeoh ). Thanks!


    I’d send you a bottle of Malbec via the intertubes if I could. Delicious stuff πŸ™‚

  24. Rajini Rao says:


    Feisal Kamil , cheeky too πŸ™‚


    Interloping, much.

  25. Rajini Rao says:


    I only meant the lowly Arabidopsis flower (or the cheeky scientists) as interlopers, Feisal Kamil . Never you.


    I see that you are mellow indeed this Fri night πŸ™‚


  26. THATS A REALLY PRETTY AND INTERESTING FLOWER


  27. oo oo oo do jellyfish

  28. Allyn E says:


    Whats good to the outside is also good in the inside. πŸ™‚


  29. 125MB isn’t much of a genome is it ?


  30. it’s in the first sentence at the top!

  31. Nico Ward says:


    This is beautiful.

  32. Billy Hung says:


    Rajini Rao For life cycle, you can get 1 generation in about 6 weeks if you “rob the cradle” by clipping off the first mature silique (seed pod).


    Also, for those not familiar with floral organs, the image is showing the tip of the carpel, which is the female reproductive part of the plant. I am going to guess that the two areas of dense green dots represent the anthers (male reproductive part). The arrangement of these organs would suggest that this is a young flower, with the petals still folded up at this stage.

  33. Rajini Rao says:


    Billy Hung , many thanks for adding all that neat information! 6 weeks generation beats the mouse model (10 weeks).

  34. Billy Hung says:


    Rajini Rao You’re welcome! Glad I can add something useful to your excellent stream.


    And yes, Arabidopsis is great for fast genetics not just for the the generation time, but because the flowers default to self-fertilization but can also be manually out-crossed. Each flower typically yields 12 to 20 seeds, too, so it makes geneticists happy.


    For those interested in science education, check out http://www.fastplant.org . It features a cousin to Arabidopsis, which does finish a complete life cycle in 1 month (despite the speed, it is less attractive as a research model organism because its genome is bigger and messier). There’s a large amount of teaching material suited for middle and high school science classes as well as college classes. It can teach not just botany, but genetics and evolution, as well, because you can actually test Mendel’s hypothesis in 1 semester using these plants.

  35. Rajini Rao says:


    Billy Hung , I see that you’re not on Science on Google+: A Public Database . When you have a moment, could you fill out the simple form on their About page, so we can add you to shared circles? It would be great to include you as a biology/genetics resource, thanks!

  36. Chad Haney says:


    Agreed Rajini Rao RE Billy Hung

  37. Billy Hung says:


    Rajini Rao Chad Haney Thanks for the info. I have been following the Biology Circle but I had not realized that there’s a form to fill out. I’ve now submitted the profile info to add to the database. Thanks!


  38. looks like a screenshot from my fav (windows based) screensaver: electric sheep

  39. Rajini Rao says:


    Billy Hung , Chris Robinson and I co-curate the science shared circles. The form and databases are our attempts to do this in a “scientific”, transparent and organized way πŸ™‚ If you have science colleagues or friends on G+ (or if you can successfully induce them to join), please spread the word re. the database. It’s all part of our science outreach efforts. Thanks!


  40. Finally, a plant I can make out of gummy. πŸ˜€

  41. Mae Byrd says:


    This is really cool, where did you find it?

  42. VINAY KUMAR says:


    hi rajini…………..

  43. Safia Ali says:


    That truly is FLOWER POWER…


  44. really beautiful Raijini


  45. Looks like some florocent flower that illuminates in night like those present in deep sea which are self luminous…

  46. Jessica Higa says:


    Beautiful…I agree…looks like a sea anemone

  47. Kevin Clift says:


    In the interests of science (; here are some South African wines. Apparently the climate has been wreaking havoc recently but the older wines are great. http://www.wine.com/v6/South-Africa/wine/list.aspx?N=7155+113

  48. Rajini Rao says:


    In the interest of experimentation, Kevin Clift , I ought to check them out. They ship to Maryland too πŸ™‚

  49. Kevin Clift says:


    Here’s a tip for finding good wines. http://www.bbr.com/shopping/list?product_type_F=W&currency_code_F=GBP&region_code_F=12 but you probably wouldn’t ship from there.

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