New Plant Micropropagation Research and Teaching Laboratory Facility at the University of Florida.To accommodate extensive renovations occurring in Fifield Hall at the University of Florida, the Plant Restoration, Conservation and Propagation Biotechnology Program managed by Dr. Mike Kane of the Environmental Horticulture Department, was relocated. The move provided the unique opportunity to totally design new teaching and research facilities prior to moving. The new facility includes a larger culture facility, media preparation and glassware lab, a research laboratory with graduate student work stations and a plant culture teaching laboratory with multimedia capability. From July 25 – 28th, the four-day teachers’ plant tissue culture workshop: Introducing Plant Tissue Culture into the Classroom will be offered at the new facility. More information and a virtual lab tour are available at: http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/p-research.htm.

Micropropagation workshops. Carol Stiff, President and CEO of Kitchen Culture Kits, Inc., continues to spread the word about micropropagation to teachers and hobbyists and others. Carol recently presented two workshops in the Phoenix area. One was for the Mesa High School District and the other was for the Phoenix Rare Fruit Growers group. Workshop attendees consisted of high school teachers, plant enthusiasts, nurserymen, medical doctors, college teachers, college students, administrators, computer engineers and even an 8th grade super scientist. These workshops introduce people to the basics of micropropagation using very simple equipment. Contact Carol at kck@turbonet.com or visit her website for more information: www.kitchenculturkit.com

Grant renewal. Dr. Mary Ann Lila’s lab at University of Illinois, Urbana just received notice of a 5-year renewal of an NIH Botanicals Center Grant ‘Botanical Center for Age-Related Diseases’ in connection with Principal Investigator Connie Weaver, Ph.D. of Purdue University. The link for the press release is: http://nccam.nih.gov/news/2005/ 040705.htm. In April Mary Ann and her colleagues were featured on local TV (NBC affiliate) for their work on anti-cancer phytochemicals from grape cell cultures. The story was picked up by AP and has appeared on European and Australasian websites and newspapers.

Grant received. Dr. Valerie Pence and the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden received a grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, in collaboration with Archbold Biological Station in Lake Placid, FL, to produce, acclimate and reintroduce plants of the federally endangered Avon Park harebells (Crotalaria avonensis). There are only three remaining populations of this plant, all in central Florida, and seed production is not adequate for ex situ propagation work. They have collected tissues from 100 genotypes from each of two of these populations. The lab at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will micropropagate a small number of individuals of each of these 200 genotypes and collaborators at ABS will acclimate and plant the genotypes to augment the two populations from which they came.

Patents announced. U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC) recently announced that scientists at its GenApps Inc. laboratories in Winchester, Kentucky, led by Drs. Mark Nielsen and Dongmei Xu, succeeded in discovering a key tobacco gene encoding nicotine demethylase. The gene has been cloned, sequenced and its function characterized. The company said it is expecting publication of United States and international patent applications for this discovery in the very near future. Nicotine demethylase is the enzyme that facilitates the conversion of nicotine into nornicotine. Nornicotine is known to be the precursor to the tobacco specific nitrosamine N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), which has been the subject of considerable research within the scientific community for many years.
“This important and fundamental discovery holds the promise for commercial production of low-nitrosamine tobacco with significantly reduced NNN levels within the next decade,” said Dr. Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., Executive Vice President, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. “This discovery is a direct result of years of USSTC efforts to reduce tobacco-specific nitrosamines to the lowest levels possible while meeting adult consumer expectations for high-quality products.” GenApps scientists are preparing presentations and articles for peer-reviewed publications that will fully detail this discovery over the next several months.