Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

DNA Solves a Botanical Mystery

A South American flowering shrub has confused botanists for decades as they tried to determine whether it was a new species, says Scientific American's Daisy Yuhas. Thanks to DNA sequencing technology, researchers are able to say that the plant, now called Brunfelsia plowmaniana, is indeed a new species. The plant , described in the journal PhytoKeys, marks it as an "evolutionary newcomer," Yuhas says, and the decision to use genomic data to differentiate this new plant "could open the door to future DNA definitions of new botanical species."

Botanists first collected the plant 30 years ago in Bolivia and identified it as a known member of the nightshade family. But some questioned how this plant could have dispersed into the Andes away from other plants of its kind, Yuhas says, and the plant remained unclassified. Munich Botanical Garden molecular biologist Natalia Filipowicz recently decided to re-examine it. "Filipowicz studied specimens from 50 species of Brunfelsia to characterize the genetic variation across the genus," Yuhas says. When she examined the Andean plant, she found a set of unique genes that set it apart from its relatives. There has been a long-running argument in botanical circles about whether molecular analysis should be used to identify plants, Yuhas says. Filipowicz's colleague Susanne Renner tells Yuhas that the B. plowmaniana case may have gone a long way to convincing botanists that using DNA may be the way of the future for the field.

The Scan

Another Resignation

According to the Wall Street Journal, a third advisory panel member has resigned following the US Food and Drug Administration's approval of an Alzheimer's disease drug.

Novavax Finds Its Vaccine Effective

Reuters reports Novavax's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

Can't Be Used

The US Food and Drug Administration says millions of vaccine doses made at an embattled manufacturing facility cannot be used, the New York Times reports.

PLOS Papers on Frozen Shoulder GWAS, Epstein-Barr Effects on Immune Cell Epigenetics, More

In PLOS this week: genome-wide association study of frozen shoulder, epigenetic patterns of Epstein-Barr-infected B lymphocyte cells, and more.