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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

July 2, 2004

Research briefs

Plant mysteries

Researchers at the W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory, managed by the Plant Sciences Institute, are successfully revealing secrets of plants.

Alan Myers led a research team that discovered how starch is produced in corn kernels. Their discoveries revealed for the first time that genes previously thought to be unimportant in starch biosynthesis are, in fact, an integral part of the process. Myers is professor and chair of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology.

Eve Wurtele's team discovered new phytochemicals in Echinacea (purple coneflower) plants. These phytochemicals may contribute to Echinacea's effectiveness as a botanical supplement in boosting the human immune system. Wurtele is a professor of genetics, development and cell biology.

Basil Nikolau's research team discovered new metabolic pathways important in establishing the outer barrier (cuticle) that plants use for protection from the environment. The cuticle is important in protecting crops from dehydration during drought, and from invasion by fungal and bacterial pests. Nikolau is a professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology.


Researchers at the Keck Lab have made discoveries about starch biosynthesis, a botanical supplement and protecting crops during drought.