Scientists converge on Ames to discuss meristems -- the stem cells of plants

AMES, Iowa -- More than 150 plant scientists from throughout the world will gather at Iowa State University June 2-5 to discuss meristem biology. Plant meristems contain stem cells, capable of differentiation into many cell types. They are the centers of growth and cellular production.

Meristems 2005 is the sixth annual Plant Sciences Institute Symposium at Iowa State. It will be in the Scheman Building, Iowa State Center.

Researchers will discuss how meristems determine plant architecture - plant size, branching pattern, leaf and flower production. And they'll explore the potential applications meristem physiology has for enhancing crop production.

"Meristems embody most concepts of interest to life scientists," said Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute and a member of the symposium program committee. "Primary meristems are marvelous little multicelluar machines, where issues of cell signaling and coordination in development converge. We are just beginning to understand the complex system of intercellular communication that coordinates meristem functions."

Keynote speaker Thomas Laux, University of Freiburg, Germany, will talk on "Stem Cell Niches in Plants" at 5:15 p.m. Laux is internationally known for how genes control meristem dynamics.

Session topics are Stem Cells (Cell Proliferation), Differentiation/Organogenesis, Communication, Hormone Control, Meristem Types and Applications to Agriculture.

Leading the planning committee is David Hannapel, associate professor of horticulture. Other committee members include Howell, Marit Nilsen-Hamilton, professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology; and Patrick Schnable, professor of agronomy and director of the Center for Plant Genomics.

The symposium is sponsored by the Plant Sciences Institute in cooperation with the Biotechnology Council; the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology; the College of Agriculture; and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University is dedicated to becoming one of the world's leading plant science research institutes. More than 200 faculty from the College of Agriculture, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Engineering conduct research in nine centers of the institute. They seek fundamental knowledge about plant systems to help feed the growing world population, strengthen human health and nutrition, improve crop quality and yield, foster environmental sustainability and expand the uses of plants for biobased products and bioenergy. The Plant Sciences Institute supports the training of students for exciting career opportunities and promotes new technologies to aid in the economic development of agriculture and industry throughout the state. The institute is supported through public and private funding.