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Art imitating research

The installation

It took three weeks to install Joy of Discovery in the atrium of the Bond Life Science Center.

See a slide show of images depicting the installation.

Artist Kenneth vonRoenn created the glass sculpture Joy of Discovery, which fills the five-story McQuinn Atrium in the Bond Life Sciences Center. Small discs hanging from the sculpture's aluminum spine contain images generated in research at the center. The discs will be replaced every 10 years to reflect current work at the center.  

The sculpture's images 

Soybean root hairs

soybean rootFrom the laboratory of Gary Stacey, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council Endowed Professor of Soybean Biotechnology, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Image by Sung-Yong Kim.

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) provides the energy for most of the energy-consuming activities of the cell. It also regulates many biochemical pathways by supplying the energy necessary for them. ATP is usually confined inside the cell, but it may be found outside some cells, where it is thought to act as a signal or messenger. This image shows a live root segment in which the firefly protein luciferase, which produces the familiar glowing insect signal when it encounters a protein called luciferin, has been bound to the outside of the cell walls. Luciferin was then added to the roots. Light production by luciferase+luciferin requires ATP for energy. The light seen here demonstrates the presence of ATP being released from the root cells, especially near the tips of growing root hairs.

Pollen tubes
Pollen tubes 

From the laboratory of Bruce A. McClure, Professor of Biochemistry, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Image by Katsu Kondo.

After landing on the female part of a flower (the stigma) pollen germinates, producing a tube that can grow down through the cells of the female style to fertilize eggs in the ovary. Not all pollen does this successfully. In many cases, often determined by the female, the male (pollen source) and female are not compatible, and the pollen tube fails to reach to the ovary. This is a picture of a style that was squashed a day after pollination and then stained with a dye that fluoresces in ultraviolet light when it binds to pollen tubes. Individual pollen tubes can be seen as brightly stained fibers against the bluish background of the style. The long, growing pollen tubes indicate that this union is compatible.

plant cell with flourescent protein from jellyfishPlant cell with flourescent protein from jellyfish 

From the laboratory of Douglas D. Randall, Thomas Jefferson Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Image by Alejandro Tovar-Mendez.

Proteins are not only building blocks of cells, they also perform many of the activities needed for proper cell functioning. The activity of many proteins is regulated by adding a phosphate group (phosphorylation) or removing one (dephosphorylation). Protein phosphatases perform the function of removing phosphate groups from other proteins. This picture shows an isolated plant cell in which a protein phosphatase (type 2C) has been fused to a green fluorescent protein from jellyfish. The green color shows where the phosphatase is located in the cell. Two organelles, the chloroplasts (where photosynthesis occurs) and mitochondria (the cell’s energy-producers) have been colored blue and red, respectively. One can see that the phosphatase protein is not found in either organelle, but evidently does its work in the cell sap (cytosol).

Breakway organsBreakaway organs 

From the laboratory of John C. Walker, Professor of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Science. Image by David Chevalier.

Plants discard organs (leaves, flowers) that are no longer functional or are damaged or infected. Discarding organs requires severing them from the main body of the plant, which is called abscission. Abscission occurs when a layer of cells, the abscission zone, undergoes molecular and biochemical changes, allowing the organ to break free of the plant. This image highlights the abscission zones in Arabidopsis thaliana (mouse-ear cress) flowers. A protein normally expressed in abscission zones was fused to green fluorescent protein from jellyfish. The greenish-yellow color (revealed with ultraviolet light) identifies the abscission zone.

Protein (yellow to green) required for pregnancyProtein (yellow to green) required for pregnancy 

From the laboratory of R. Michael Roberts, Curators’ Professor of Animal Sciences and Biochemistry, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Image by Padmalaya Das.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to develop into almost any kind of cell found in the body. The colony of stem cells pictured here has been treated with a growth factor that directs the cells to become placental cells. These cells were stained to show their nuclei (blue) and to reveal a protein (chorionic gonadotropin,  yellowish to green) normally found only in placental cells and required for continued pregnancy. (This is the protein sensed in the common pregnancy test.) The yellow-green signals indicate that the stem cells in this colony are differentiating into placental cells.

Muscle cells from mouse with Duchenne muscular dystrophyMuscle cells from mouse with Duchenne muscular dystrophy 

From the laboratory of Dongsheng Duan, Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine. Experiment by Yongping Yue, image by Dongsheng Duan.

The muscle protein dystrophin is missing in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Mice missing dystrophin suffer the same disease. Muscle cell membranes become fragile and easily damaged. Some viruses can be used to carry a good gene into the diseased tissues. This gene level therapy holds great promise for many diseases such as DMD. This picture shows muscle cells from DMD mice that were treated with viruses carrying a form of the dystrophin gene. Muscle cells that did not receive the virus have leaky membranes. This is reflected as red and yellow colors inside the damaged muscle cells. The muscle cells that received viruses have dystrophin protein (green color) on the membrane. These cells are protected from damage and there is no accumulation of red and yellow colors inside the treated cells. This gene therapy has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of DMD by protecting cells from membrane damage. Currently this gene therapy is in clinical trial in DMD patients.

M cells with a compound from the amur maackia treeM cells with a compound from the amur maackia tree 

From the laboratory of Thomas E. Phillips, Professor of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Science. Image by Carisa Petris.

The inner surface of the eyelid and sclera of the eye are covered by a layer called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva has unique “M cells” which detect pathogens and deliver them to the immune system for identification and elimination. M cells can be labeled specifically with a compound from the Amur Maackia tree (Maackia amurensis leukoagglutinin-I). To see MAL-I labeled M cells with the electron microscope, MAL-I was attached to colloidal gold particles. Electron microscopes can only produce black and white images but the gold particles in this image have been pseudo-colored gold to make them easier to see. M-cell surfaces, which have an elongated polygon shape with random star-shaped projections, are labeled by MAL-I conjugated gold while little or no labeling is seen on the surrounding cells.

Root cell walls reacting to droughtRoot cell walls reacting to drought 

From the laboratory of Robert E. Sharp, Professor of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Image by In-Jeong Cho and Mayandi Sivaguru.

During drought, plant roots regulate their metabolism to maintain their ability to elongate and seek additional water. The ability to elongate requires accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), probably as a way of loosening the constraints of the plant cell wall; an example is hydrogen peroxide. This image illustrates ROS in the cell walls of a root under drought conditions, and was obtained using a ROS-indicating fluorescent dye.  A pseudo-color picture of the fluorescent dye shows increasing ROS intensity from blue to red.

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