Two GDCB Research Teams in the News for Plant Research Discoveries

July 4, 2012

Wurtele and Yang
Dr. Eve Wurtele (left) and Dr. Bing Yang

Dr. Eve Syrkin Wurtele, GDCB professor, and Micheline Ngaki, a graduate research assistant in Prof. Wurtele’s lab, along with research groups at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, uncovered the function of three plant proteins of the thale cress plant, a discovery that could help plant scientists boost seed oil production in crops, thereby benefitting the production of food, biorenewable chemicals and biofuels. The discovery is published online at, the website of the journal Nature. The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation including the Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State, the National Cancer Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Ms. Ngaki’ s Fulbright award. Additional support came from Iowa State’s Plant Sciences Institute.

ISU News Release:

Dr. Bing Yang, GDCB assistant professor and his research team have developed a group of hybrid proteins that he believes could lead to a highly-efficient method for modifying plant and animal DNA. This innovative technology to modify plant DNA uses TALEN technology to alter a gene in rice to make the plant resistant to bacterial blight. Dr. Yang said. “We demonstrated we could move this technology to the real world, to make a change in the rice DNA. It’s a proof of concept.”  This ground-breaking advance was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Dr. Yang’s research is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Iowa State University Research Foundation.

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