Faculty in Biology
Patrick von Aderkas, Professor
Office: PCH 052a Office Phone: 250-721-8925
Teaching: Plants & People, Tree Biology, Introductory Biology.
Lab Website: http://web.uvic.ca/~pvonader/index.html
Experimental reproductive biology of conifers
We are looking at the metabolomics of hormones in plants using an approach called multiple reaction monitoring (MRM). This method makes use of mass spectrometry and allows us to identify and to quantify hormones and their metabolites in numerous pathways. This methodology is linked to cone induction experiments in which we tease out the underlying factors that control this bottleneck in conifer seed supply. A similar approach was used to study how an insect – Megastigmus spermotrophus – is able to parasitize Douglas fir seed. This chalcid alters hormone metabolism, preventing infested ovules from aborting. The result is that the otherwise doomed Douglas fir seed builds up storage reserves to feed the insect.
The lab also studies compounds secreted during pollination. These drops are sugar-rich liquids that induce pollen germination; the compounds in the drop also eliminate other organisms that blow in on the wind, such as fungi and bacteria. Proteomics has played a key role in unraveling the proteins: we have analyzed drops from Douglas fir, larch, yew, yellow cypress, Port Orford cedar, common juniper, prickly juniper and Welwitschia mirabilis . All have been found to have defense proteins in abundance. This ensures “safe sex” in gymnosperms. We are currently establishing the function of these and other proteins.
We keep a small program running in experimental in vitro conifer embryogenesis, including haploid embryogenesis and somatic embryogenesis. Recent research has focused on phenotypic variation in clones for a variety of physiologically controlled characteristics, including organ formation (cotyledons), and acquisition of cold tolerance.