The Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation (GRIPP)
Plants play a fundamental role in sustaining all forms of life on the planet though food, fiber, fuel, shelter and medicine. Unfortunately, one third of all plant species on earth are under threat of extinction due to overharvest, diseases, pollution, and the escalating loss of natural habitats resulting from the activities of a rapidly growing human population. Rising global temperature and climate changes are even more serious threats to survival of many plant species. Such rapid loss in plant biodiversity has serious consequences for the health and resilience of all ecosystems and for the quality of human life. Undoubtedly, the need to develop efficient and effective strategies for conserving threatened plant species is crucial and urgent.
The mission of GRIPP is to preserve endangered plant species through research, education, and service programs. GRIPP will focus on developing international, interdisciplinary research and educational programs to improve the strategies and technologies for multiplication and conservation of plant species of ecological importance. GRIPP will also provide a platform for undergraduate and graduate students as well as other professionals and environmentalists to learn, envision, and disseminate information on plant conservation and environmental consciousness.
The Institute will operate in three areas:
In Vitro Conservation of Endangered Plant Species
Indiscriminate harvest, poor perpetuity in nature, and lack of efficiency with conventional propagation methods pose major limitations in the restoration of endangered species. In vitro cell and tissue culture facilitates a continuous supply of germplasm, selection of elite individuals, and the development and propagation of disease-resistant, pathogen-free plants facilitating long-term conservation and sustainable use of plant biodiversity. Development of technologies for controlled environment multiplication of plants is a key element in GRIPP's approach to conservation, genetic improvement, and potential commercialization of endangered plant species. The species of current interest include native trees such as American elm, Chestnut, Maple, Oak, Ash, Cherry Birch, and several medicinal and ornamental plants including orchids. GRIPP research programs will be conducted under the direction of the Plant Cell Technology Laboratory (PCTL) (http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/cellculture) of Professor Praveen K. Saxena.
Cloning of American Elm (Ulmus americana L.)
Majestic American elms were among the most popular and recognizable trees in North America, lining boulevards and adorning city centres. Unfortunately, the Dutch elm disease (DED) has now wiped out more than 95 per cent of the American elm population in Eastern Canada and the United States. The DED is caused by the fungal infection, which interferes with circulation of water and nutrients resulting in the death of the tree. Only about one in 100,000 elms may be naturally resistant to the pathogen.
An efficient procedure for the conservation of mature American elm trees that have survived the epidemics of Dutch elm disease and are potential sources of disease resistance has been developed in the PCTL with support from GRIPP.
The model utilizes in vitro proliferation of fresh and dormant buds from mature trees for cloning the 'survivor' American elm trees. The key factors that influenced sustained growth and multiplication included optimization of culture process in relation to auxin metabolism in the source tissue. This technology is expected to facilitate the conservation of elite germplasm, screening of large populations of in vitro generated plants for disease resistance, and reintroduction of resistant genotypes into the landscape. The approach may also serve as a model to improve conservation of other endangered tree species.
Shukla, M.R., Jones, A.M.P., Sullivan, J.A., Liu, C., Gosling, S., Saxena, P.K. 2012. In vitro conservation of American elm (Ulmus americana): potential role of auxin metabolism in sustained plant proliferation. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 42: 686-697, doi: 10.1139/ X2012-022.
Development of Protoplast Isolation and Fusion Technologies
In a recent study at GRIPP a novel method has been developed to facilitate efficient protoplast isolation by selective inhibition of the phenylpropanoid pathway. The significance of this study lies in its innovative and systematic approach to develop an effective solution to a problem that has limited the progress in protoplast based genetic improvement of American elm. Protoplasts isolated using this system displayed high rates of viability, initiate cell division sooner and at a high frequency, and have facilitated the recovery of protoplast-derived callus in this species for the first time.
The fundamental aspect of this technology also provides a novel approach to expand the application of inhibitors of phenylpropanoid pathway to many traditionally recalcitrant woody species in which cell wall digestion and reproducible protoplast isolation has proven to be very difficult, if not impossible. Ongoing studies indicate that this approach increases protoplast isolation in other woody species including sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and hazelnut (Corylus sp.).
Jones, A.M.P., Chattopadhyay, A., Shukla, M.R., Zoń, J., Saxena, P.K. 2012. Inhibition of phenylpropanoid biosynthesis increases cell wall digestibility, protoplast isolation, and facilitates sustained cell division in American elm (Ulmus americana) (In Press)
Highly Qualified Personnel
GRIPP will support undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral researchers in interdisciplinary areas of research on plant conservation.
GRIPP will develop outreach programs to inform and, educate the community including school children about the value of plant species locally and globally. GRIPP will develop and host workshops, field days and incorporate web based interactive resources to disseminate information on plant conservation strategies and environmental consciousness.
The institute will provide resources such as novel plants, educational tools, and advice on conservation and commercialization of plant biodiversity to the horticulture industry, botanical gardens, and other interested institutions.
For further information, please contact:
Praveen K. Saxena,
Department of Plant Agriculture,
University of Guelph,
Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
We are in the process of developing a website for GRIPP which will follow soon.
GRIPP is funded by the Gosling Foundation, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.